Fellow PC Computing alumnus Rafe Needleman is convinced that big, national wi-fi providers like T-Mobile spell the end for small, local wi-fi service providers. I’m not so sure. People have been predicting the demise of the mom-and-pop ISP for years now. The truth is, however, local ISPs increased in number in every year from 1997 to 2000, showing a slight dip (to about 7,300) in 2001. (Here’s a directory with the relevant stats.) I suspect the reason for the continued strength of the local ISPs in the face of overwhelming competition from AOL is that some people just appreciate having a local phone number they can call, where they know they’ll get a real, live human being who will answer their questions. In other words, it comes down to service. Why should the wireless ISP market be any different?