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Philly picks EarthLink for Wi-Fi network

Against all odds, a groundbreaking project moves forward as EarthLink beats out HP to unwire fifth largest city.
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor on

Philadelphia has chosen EarthLink to provide Wi-Fi service across America's fifth-largest city. The Atlanta-based company will use equipment from Tropos Networks to cover the city in Wi-Fi; EarthLink is funding the build-out upfront and revenue sharing income with the city. Most residents will pay $20 a month. Low-income residents (and there are a lot in Philadelphia) would pay about $10.

Work on the Philadelphia system should begin in December and be completed by the end of 2006, said Dianah Neff, chief information officer for the city of Philadelphia. "I think it shows (municipal Wi-Fi) is doable," Neff said. "There are companies that are interested in doing this."

Philadelphia's plan has huge digital divide ramifications. As much as half the homes in Philly have no Internet access; Digital Philadelphia would offer low-cost broadband connections for about the same price Verizon charges for dial-up.

See an interview between Dan Farber and Diana Neff.

CNET's News.com reported:

Neff said EarthLink will operate what amounts to the Wi-Fi backbone, but multiple Internet service providers will be permitted to sell access. "We're not looking to create another monopoly," she said. "We have that in the telecom and cable fields."

"Initially, we will construct a 15-square-mile proof-of-concept area, and upon completion of the testing phase, Wireless Philadelphia and EarthLink will begin building out the remainder of the city's wireless network," Donald Berryman, executive vice president of EarthLink customer support, said in a statement. Wireless Philadelphia is a nonprofit group created by the city government.

Discounted access to low-income households is expected to be about $10. By having cheaper wireless networks available to workers such as police and building inspectors, the city hopes to save about $2 million a year over the cost of Verizon's EV-DO service, which typically runs about $70 a month.



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