The Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T is getting on the MuniFi bandwagon, and will build a wireless network in the city of Springfield, Ill. The company will also include a free tier in the package which involved building and operating the networks. Apparently, the batteries not included. The city will pay for the electricity to keep the network running. This is the second major MuniFi for Ma Bell. Earlier this year, AT&T had teamed up with MetroFi to build and operate a network in Riverside, California.
Jason Hillery, an AT&T spokesman, said that more than a year ago AT&T stopped lobbying for legislation that would have prohibited governments from subsidizing Wi-Fi service because municipalities increasingly are cutting deals with businesses to develop the networks. He also said AT&T’s lobbying priorities have shifted to legislation that would help speed its rollout of television services. “The evolution of the market removed the need for us to oppose these types of networks in any active way,” he said.
Translation: It has become politically dangerous to oppose municipal wireless networks, especially for incumbent phone companies who want to get the state wide video franchise legislations approved. Phone companies, and I say this with some admiration, have uncanny political survival skills. Of course with all the money they spend on legislation, these should have those skills.