A group of local investors will rescue Philadelphia’s trailblazing wireless network from what seemed like imminent shutdown, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. A new for-profit company will replace Earthlink. The network seemed doomed last month when Earthlink went to court seeking permission to remove its transmitters from city streetlights.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the network is being purchased by several local investors who will be creating a new, for-profit company to replace Earthlink using no taxpayer money.
The investment group includes local businessmen Derek Pew and Mark Rupp. Pew briefly served as interim chief executive officer of Wireless Philadelphia, the non-profit organization created by Mayor John F. Street. A lawyer and former investment banker, Pew is now the CEO of a management investment firm called Boathouse Communications. Rupp is a former Verizon executive with 18 years experience in telecommunications management.
EarthLink, the Internet provider that built the network covering about 80 percent of the city, asked a federal judge last month for permission to dismantle it. The company, which says it was losing up to $200,000 a month on the network, wants out of its 10-year contract with the city, managed by Wireless Philadelphia
The signal is too weak to reach inside most buildings, and Earthlink’s $20 monthly fee was not much cheaper than the far-faster broadband offerings of Comcast and Verizon.
Only about 6,000 customers signed onto the service, and Earthlink announced last year that it wanted out of the Philadelphia wireless business. EarthLink, which values the network equipment at about $17 million, has offered to turn it over to a new owner for free in a bid to get out of its contract.
UPDATE: Under the new system, accounced today, people can buy a $200 repeater to bring the signal inside buildings. The new owners plan to underwrite the cost of public Wi-fi by persuading businesses to buy technology allowing employees to access corporate networks from remote locations.
Revenue from corporate customers would pay for infrastructure to distribute a wireless signal to outdoor areas throughout the city, notably to low-income areas where many residents don’t have the Internet access that could improve their ability to find jobs or access public services.
Here’s the uninformative news release. The WSJ says instead of charging residents $20 a month, consumers will have free, ad-supported wireless access, while businesses and institutions will have to pay, according to Greg Goldman, chief executive of Wireless Philadelphia. Sounds like another Meraki ad-driven network.
Hey Greg, I know where you could pick up an ad-sponsored network — cheap. On Friday, MetroFi plans to pull the plug on Portland’s free, ad-supported Internet service, says the AP.
There are approximately 2500 wireless access points per square mile in Portland. That’s 100 times the coverage that MetroFi planned to deploy. If only a fraction of these access points were setup as Personal Telco nodes, we could truly “Unwire Portland” overnight, with little-to-no extra expenditure AND no ads.
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