EarthLink ends Philadelphia Wi-Fi story

EarthLink officials announced today that the company is shutting down the troubled municipal Wi-Fi network in Philadelphia.

The announcement comes after the company failed to find a buyer for the city's Wi-Fi service. In recent weeks, the company had also talked about transferring the $17 million network to the city or a nonprofit organization for free, but company officials said those negotiations unraveled.

'EarthLink has worked diligently for many months to transfer our Wi-Fi network to a new owner ' at no cost,' said Roll Huff, EarthLink's chairman and chief executive officer. 'Unfortunately, our hope that we could transfer our network to a nonprofit organization that had planned to offer free Wi-Fi throughout Philadelphia will not be realized. Since we have exhausted our efforts to find a new owner of the network, our only responsible alternative now is to remove our network at our cost and assist our Wi-Fi customers with alternative ways to access the Internet.'

EarthLink will continue to provide Wi-Fi service to Philadelphia customers until June 12. The company will then begin to decommission the network.

Today EarthLink filed a proceeding in federal court seeking a declaration that the company may remove its equipment from the city's streetlights and that EarthLink's total potential liability may not exceed $1 million, company officials said.

Today's announcements come a few weeks after EarthLink announced it was terminating its municipal wireless network in New Orleans. EarthLink also ran municipal Wi-Fi networks in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Milipitas, Calif. A few weeks ago, city officials took over ownerships of those networks.

When the project debuted four years ago, Philadelphia's wireless network was cited as a model for other large cities on how to deploy low-cost municipal Wi-Fi.

The project ended up costing more than EarthLink and the city had anticipated. For example, the company spent at least one-third more than it had budgeted on Wi-Fi antennas. Users complained that connectivity was unreliable and the customer service was poor.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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