Philadelphia - May 15, 2008 - According to wirelessphiladelphia.org, Wireless Philadelphia Digital Inclusion has notified its members and subscribers that Earthlink intends to terminate Wi-fi service in that city. Earthlink will provide customers a 30-day transition period through June 12, 2008, and all Digital Inclusion customers will be eligible for one year of free Internet access via dial-up through June 2009.
Philadelphia officials announced their plans for a citywide Wi-fi hot spot, making high-speed Internet access available in poor communities, in 2004. Cities around the world began taking notice. The contract, finalized in early 2006, between the city and Earthlink agreed to charge $21.95/month (and half that to low-income households) for the service. Earthlink paid for building the network and said it would pay rent to the city for the use of light posts where the equipment would hang. However, according to the Associated Press, the technology proved unreliable and difficult to deploy. Atlanta-based Earthlink gave notice to the city after it could not find a buyer for the $17 million network.
Earthlink's lawsuit against the city claims the company has only 5,942 subscribers in Philadelphia out of a projected minimum of 100,000. The company is losing $200,000/month with the subscriber fees covering less than half of the operating costs.
Earthlink has similarly pulled out of Wi-fi ventures in San Francisco, Houston, Chicago and other cities, according to USA Today.
Wireless Philadelphia stresses that it is aggressively working to prevent the deadline from being imposed and at the same time solidify a replacement for Earthlink's Wi-fi service prior to that date.
For more on this news story, visit The Associated Press; or the Washington Post.