Here is the Wiki page where Sam Churchill will assemble a page on Austin Wireless Parks.

From [ NY Times] <P>

In Austin, you can pick up some rays just about anywhere these days — 2.4 gigahertz radio waves, that is. This central Texas city has become something of a hot spot for hot spots, with hundreds available in businesses, restaurants and parks. In many of them, anybody with a Wi-Fi-equipped laptop can turn on and tune in at no charge.

"Austin is the freest unwired city in the world," Mr. MacKinnon said, sitting in BookPeople, a large bookstore, with a fellow project leader, Jon Lebkowsky, a technology consultant. "It's like a road — the best way for a community to flourish is if the roads are free. The quickest way to squelch it is to charge for access."

Austin already had hundreds of volunteer hot spots (not even counting home users who share their networks), but Mr. MacKinnon is trying to push the idea further still with the Austin Wireless City Project. He is evangelizing for a movement that blends free wireless, free software and even free computers into a growing citywide network. The movement rebels against the practice of charging for hot spot surfing the way Starbucks and other businesses do.

So seven months ago, Mr. MacKinnon and like-minded geekerati started their project. The premise: they would install a Wi-Fi hot spot — free — in any business that had a high-speed Internet connection. They use recycled computers donated by a local company, Image Microsystems, to give the project a green halo: "By saving the environment, we also found a cost-effective (free!) way to put hot spot servers in our venues," Mr. MacKinnon wrote in an e-mail message.

They also keep costs down by loading the machines with free software like the Linux operating system and other programs that they developed to enhance the network for users. Anyone who is connected through the network can see who else is logged on and send Web-based e-mail or chat live with them, wherever they might be in town.

In the seven months that Austin Wireless City has been around, the group of about 30 volunteers has installed about 40 hot spots. It has signed up 7,200 users, Mr. MacKinnon said — far more than T-Mobile and Starbucks locally, according to an analysis in Wi-Fi Networking News, and growing at a rate of about 30 percent every two weeks.

For its part, Starbucks, which now has hot spots in 2,700 stores, is not perturbed by the rise of free wireless, a spokesman for the company, Nick Davis, said. "We believe that the increase in Wi-Fi hot spots is a good thing — it builds awareness and helps increase customer adoption of Wi-Fi across the board," he said.

Joe Sims, the vice president and general manager of T-Mobile hot spots, with 4,600 sites nationwide, including those in Starbucks, said that free and for-pay hot spots could coexist. Some people will pay for access because they want to know that they are getting something that is safe and dependable, he said, adding, "Why is there demand for bottled water?"

Mr. MacKinnon says there are about 100 businesses waiting to join. "We're Santa Claus," he said.

As one example of what the network can do, during Austin's recent "South by Southwest" music festival, the project made songs by more than 600 artists available to users.

Is there a business in such a network? Members of the project say they hope so, but they do not yet know what that will be. They know that there will be innovation, and they know that there will be surprises, for good or ill.

That might sound a little like the unfortunate if-you-build-it-they-will-come fantasy of the dot-com bubble. But Gary Chapman, the director of the 21st Century Project at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin, has written glowingly about the network and Mr. MacKinnon's company, which he sees as "kind of an anti-dot-com, or perhaps an Austin-weird way of doing things, but a model that could take off."

In an interview, he said, "They've obviously latched onto something that's picking up steam." In fact, he said, it could change the way people look at the wireless market. "I think the presence of the free spots in town is making people sort of expect that that's the way things ought to be.