Philadelphia WiFi Rescued?

Posted by Sam Churchill on

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 Daily News, a deal to save the network is expected will be announced by Mayor Nutter during a City Hall news conference at noon today.

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.

Michael Weinberg of Portland’s Personal Telco Project adds:

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.

DailyWireless has more than 650 related Municipal Wireless stories including; Earthlink to Philly: We’re Outta Here, Philadelphia WiFi Network To Shut Down June 12, MuniFi Roundup, Muni-Fi’s Got Trouble, Who the MuniFi MAN?, Municipal WiFi: What Would You Do?, Wireless Silicon Valley: Would You Believe a Dozen Hotspots in San Carlos?, Free Grass Roots Wi-Fi: It Works in Portland, Starbucks Adds AT&T Wi-Fi, Earthlink Gets Out, MetroFi Vs Portland, Meraki Proposes Free SF Wi-Fi Network, OpenAirBoston Regroups; Becomes Open, Sacramento WiFi on Slow Track, Sacramento Approves WiFi, SoCal Wireless: Toast?, MuniFi: What Now?, MuniFi: Not Dead Yet, Earthlink Restructures, MuniFi Holds Breath, San Francisco WiFi Dead?, Earthlink Tweeks WiFi Business, New York’s 750 sq mile Cloud, San Francisco WiFi Dead?, Wireless Houston: Size Queen?, State-wide Wireless Broadband Access, Ten Cities Under Colorado Cloud, FiberNet for Calif Schools, Washington’s 1500mi Cloud, Sprint WiMAXing NYC, Connecting the Nation, WiFi Vs WiMAX in Windy City, New York’s 750 sq mile Cloud, Will “N” Rescue MuniFi?, Aeris + PacifiCorp: CDMA Meter Reading, M2Z: Free Internet Now!, Sprint’s WiMAX Cities, San Francisco: Now it’s the Antennas!, WiFi War in San Francisco, Houston + Earthlink to Build Huge MuniFi Network, El Paso Unwired + Most of California, Green Light for Philly WiFi Expansion, City Clouds Turn On, Minneapolis Goes Local, Digital City Winners, Anaheim Turns On, New Orleans Gets Earthlink Cloud, Portland Chooses MetroFi for 134 Mile Cloud, Milwaukee’s $20M Cloud, Dvorak: Muni WiFi Will Die, The World Largest WiFi Cloud, Rain on SF Cloud, Google WiFi SitRep, San Mateo: 1st Silicon Valley Cloud, Sacramento Approves WiFi, Cloud for Silicon Valley, Wireless Silicon Valley Proposals, Park City: Solar WiFi, Solar Powered Solstice, GoogleFi: Ads or Not?, Google WiFi Interview, Portland Chooses MetroFi for 134 Mile Cloud, SF WiFi: Bad Deal for Poor?, SF Cloud: It’s Google/Earthlink, Minneapolis Bridge Collapse & Emergency Communications and Philly Chooses Earthlink.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008 at 6:19 am .

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