Though it may not be a major selling point for communities considering building a network, they can offer tremendous research potential. Local communities are more approachable for researchers and more likely to form mutually beneficial partnerships. Consider an interesting story about the Oklahoma City Wi-Fi network and weather researchers.
This is a massive network -- at 555 square miles, the largest in the world. Local universities have teamed up with the city to closely monitor the weather constantly throughout the network. This data is useful in tracking how air currents move around a city - which is really helpful for those trying to understand and mitigate terrorist chemical or biological weapon attacks... for instance.
This is just one of some 200 applications the City uses its network for:
Steve Eaton, information security architect for Oklahoma City, characterizes the project as the most unique application the city utilizes. The Wi-Fi network currently runs about 200 applications that range from video surveillance to GPS tracking systems.