Most municipal Wi-Fi initiatives end in the graveyard, but cemeteries are among the few spots not covered by Minneapolis's new $20 million wireless network, which blankets 95% of its 59 square miles. As an anchor tenant of the system, the city lowered many of its own costs, while capping resident rates at $20 a month. But the Wi-Fi blanket is also a powerful tool to narrow the digital divide for low-income residents. "It's not just about access to broadband, but affordable access," says Lynn Willenbring, the city's CIO. To bridge the significant usage gap between the lowest- and highest-income homes, Minneapolis established an $11 million digital-inclusion fund. Not-for-profits that offer public computer access get free broadband; hot spots in parks and plazas offer timed free usage; and anyone can access city sites online for free.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.