Wifi wasnt meant for community wifi, but for residential. At 2.4 ghz (or so) it won't penetrate properly to so the job. On top of that the backhaul was probably weak so there's a problem.
If they used the right routers they would have beamforming and wouldn't trample on everyone's stuff.
Johnson Controls is a HUGE company. They are trying to get into home automation and their first run products are a nightmare. I tried a thermostat (wifi NG. They are not ready for prime time.
In any case the whitespace and 802.11ac (even better 802.22) can definitely work due to the lower frequencies, more advanced tech, beamforming, and interference handshake. They are just a little too early. And don't forget that backhaul like Sprint....