New Orleans has chosen Earthlink to build a citywide wireless network. According to MuniWireless, EarthLink will provide free Internet access at speeds up to 300 Kbps and paid service if the user wants more bandwidth. EarthLink will be using Tropos mesh nodes and Motorola Canopy for this project.
The city has been involved in a dispute with BellSouth, the local incumbent, over a communications network (that provided among other things VOIP and Internet access) set up by the city to handle emergency communications after last year’s hurricane Katrina knocked out BellSouth’s network.
According to a New Telephony article published in March, the city set up a Tropos mesh network that enabled VoIP communications, but BellSouth pressured the city not to operate the network permanently.
“They say I’m going to compete with them, that government shouldn’t compete with the private sector and that we will be using federal funds,” said [New Orleans Deputy Mayor Greg] Meffert. “We will not go above 512k, which is not a huge network pipe. We are not going into the cable business and the network business, not competing with any of that, and they think we are. They told me that to my face.”
Don't look for N.O. to depend on BellSouth for critical government activities again, in any case.
We have not just plan A but also B, C and D. I’m somewhere around plan H,” he joked. New Orleans is planning newly hardened facilities, satellite uplinks that use solar power and VoIP for “hot rollovers to other cities” among other backup plans. Having experienced a total lack of communication, “We’re making sure that never happens again, because, when you go through it and see the effect of it, [it changes] that basic assumption that government will be there. We never thought that day would come, and we learned that’s not necessarily true.”