Wi-Fi optimize

Earthlink's municipal Wi-Fi plans may be sinking


Earthlink Wi-FiEarthlink has been forced to scale back its plans for municipal Wi-Fi in at least two cities, San Francisco and Houston. After forging a deal with Philadelphia in which the city became Earthlink's first municipal Wi-Fi project, Earthlink has had to change its position on negotiations with other cities, insisting that the cities become "anchor tenants," using the Wi-Fi for projects like parking meters and mobilizing city workers. Some places, like Houston, might be able to make such a deal, but for cities like Chicago, which already has existing wireless infrastructure for city use, such deals will not be feasible. In fact, it appears that some cities' dreams of "free" municipal Wi-Fi will never come to fruition.

EarthLink's woes put free muni Wi-Fi in peril (News.com)

Earthlink just paid Houston a $5 million penalty for failing to begin the infrastructure build on time. This gives Houston the opportunity to look at other vendors while Earthlink uses its nine month window to decide whether to fulfil its contract, which calls for Houston to pay $500,000 per year as the "anchor tenant" in the system that would cover the 640 square mile city. Earthlink also recently announced that they would be laying off nearly half of their workforce, over 900 employees, as part of a restructuring effort to reduce the $79 to $109 million dollar loss they are expected to take in 2007. Earthlink launched its first muni Wi-Fi project in June in Anaheim, California, a system that will eventually consist of 1500 access points.

EarthLink to pay city $5M for missed deadline (Houston Chronicle)

EarthLink CEO Devoted To Muni Wi-Fi And Helio (Information Week)

EarthLink's First Muni Wi-Fi Launches (Wi-Fi Planet)

I like the idea of municipal Wi-Fi, particularly since the stated costs to the consumer of the only system in place (Anaheim) is $17.95 for the first three months and $22 per month afterwards for a 1 Mbps download speed. That is a pretty reasonable price for someone too far from the CO for DSL and unwilling to pay the $50 per month for cable modem.

Have you heard about Wi-Fi projects in your municipality? Would you welcome (or use) such a system if it were implemented?

4 comments
ortleybeach
ortleybeach

I'm watching Earthlink's Philadelphia build-out. I live 30 minutes North and hoping they make plans to build up this way. I use my local Internet Access Provider for dialup but they too have been trying a wi-Fi build out. My local provider is a Small company when compared to Earthlink but would be great to have some Wi-Fi around here. Jack T New Jersey

Andy Moon
Andy Moon

And if so, would it become your primary ISP or would you use it as a backup or supplementary connection? Personally, I live .5 miles from the CO and have had extremely good luck with my DSL line since I got it in 1998. I also play a lot of Halo and I am afraid that the Wi-Fi connection would be a bit too laggy, since it is only a 1 Mbps download. However, I would be willing to use it as a secondary connection, particularly if I were to get a job that required me to go up to Houston instead of down to Galveston Island.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I hope this does not come across as a plug for my blog, but in Minneapolis the metro Wi-Fi is much more than a convenience as it was crucial to help rescuers during the bridge collapse. http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/wireless/?p=121

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

Earthlink found they needed 100 access points (per square mile I think) rather than the 40 or so. Also this points out that instead of being a nebulous 'free service' it is only working out if the city uses it too. Earthlink had depended on advertising in one model. Someone else pointed out, why wifi when other technologies wimax, 3g? At least was private contractor doing on its own for the city. If it had been the city, they'd be petrified in bureaucracy into one technology as things moved along. And damn the torpedoes or cost over-runs, they'd do it anyway and waste lots of money, fail big.