Citywide Wi-Fi Moves Forward In New Orleans, Philly

Philadelphia's mayor signed the documents needed to start that city's 135 square-mile network while the New Orleans City Council approved deployment.

May 26, 2006

2 Min Read
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Citywide wireless networking is taking significant steps forward on two fronts, in New Orleans and in Philadelphia.

The New Orleans City Council has approved a law enabling EarthLink to develop a citywide wireless network while Philadelphia mayor John Street signed into law all the laws needed to start the citywide network in that city, which also will be developed by EarthLink.

Derek Pew, interim CEO of Wireless Philadelphia, the non-profit agency that will oversee the network, said in an interview that work will start will begin in earnest within a couple of weeks. Pew said the initial phase will cover about 15 square miles with the rest of the 135 square mile network being developed after kinks in the initial segment are worked out.

Pew said the signing was an emotional moment attended by a number of school children.

"The kids are excited about this," Pew said. "On the one hand, it was a media event. On the other hand, there's a lot of excitement among younger people who now know they can get the Internet in their home.A specific goal of the program is "digital inclusion," Pew said. That means helping families get connected that otherwise can't afford Internet access, which will help give them a chance to succeed in an increasingly connected world. Pew stressed that, after nearly a year of intense debate, in which the proposed network served as a lightning rod for those, including large telecom operators who opposed the network, it is now time to get to work.

"It's like opening day of the football season," Pew said. "It's time to stop talking about it and time to start blocking and tackling."

The Philadelphia network is being developed and managed by EarthLink, which means there is little or no risk to taxpayers should the network fail. EarthLink will offer service but the network is open, meaning that other service providers also can offer service. A similar business model is being used in New Orleans, where the City Council approved EarthLink to develop the network there.

The New Orleans network will be available free, at least in the short-term, at speeds as high as 300Kbps, EarthLink said in a statement. In addition, access at speeds as high as 1 Mbps also will be available for a fee, according to EarthLink. As with the network it is developing in Philadelphia, EarthLink said the network it is developing in New Orleans will be open to other, competing service providers.

Mayor Ray Nagin, who recently won re-election, hailed the importance of the network."It's one more sign that New Orleans is rebuilding for the future; creating a safer, smarter and more efficient environment for all people," Nagin said in a statement.

EarthLink provided no details about when it expected the network to be deployed.

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