How Will the Nation Get Covered in Wireless Internet?

Includes: ELNK, S, T
by: Kevin Maney

Lots of news circling. In the last 24 hours, Starbucks shifted to giving a couple hours of free wi-fi from AT&T to customers. Since there are more Starbucks shops than manhole covers in most urban areas, this could practically coat cities in wi-fi. And also in the past day, Earthlink said it is giving up on municipal wi-fi, after losing about $80 million trying to build these systems.

In the meantime, my old colleague Leslie Cauley interviewed my old acquaintance Dan Hesse, who is now the new CEO of Sprint -- and Dan told her that Sprint will likely forge ahead with its wi-max plans. Sprint has enough licenses to blanket much of the country in wireless Internet access.

A couple months ago, I talked with Martin Varsavsky, founder of FON, the Spain-based company that is attempting to create city-wide wi-fi systems with a grow-your-own, grass roots type approach. Can that win? Hm. Pretty interesting the way it's working out in the U.K.