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Metro Wi-Fi for the Masses

People looking to relocate or planning a sight-seeing trip to a metro area may be adding another item to their checklists: Does the city offer wireless access? -- Increasingly, the answer will be yes. This month, San Francisco and New Haven, CT became the two latest major U.S. urban areas to take another step toward providing Wi-Fi connections. They've submitted requests for proposals from technology companies and hired consultants. And Philadelphia -- the first major urban area to initiate a city government-led wireless program -- just announced that it has narrowed its search for an Internet provider to two finalists: Earthlink and Hewlett-Packard. The service will be rolled out in "mid-October," according to Dianah Neff, CIO of the city of Philadelphia. Indeed, approximately 300 U.S. cities and municipalities are now in various stages of wireless rollouts -- up from barely any just a year and a half ago. Greg Richardson, founder of Civitium, an Atlanta-based organization that assists cities in their Wi-Fi efforts, sometimes uses the word "crazy" to describe this phenomenon.

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