THE DISCONNECT: Philly Wi-Fi Goes No-Fi

PHILADELPHIA – EarthLink Inc. is pulling the plug on its troubled wireless high-speed Internet network in Philadelphia, once touted as a model for how big cities should deploy Wi-Fi. The Atlanta-based Internet service provider said Tuesday that it could not find a buyer for the $17 million network and that talks to give it to either the city or a nonprofit organization had failed. City officials have said it would cost taxpayers millions each year to operate the network.

“It’s been an unfortunate situation,” Chief Executive Officer Rolla Huff told The Associated Press. “It was a great idea a few years ago, … but it’s an idea that simply didn’t make it.” EarthLink, which will give current customers until June 12 to switch to another provider, said it even offered to donate the Wi-Fi equipment to someone and give them an additional $1 million. Meanwhile, EarthLink filed a federal suit Tuesday that seeks to remove its Wi-Fi equipment from city street lights and cap its potential liability at $1 million.

Four years ago, Philadelphia officials announced the EarthLink deal with great fanfare that attracted attention from cities in the United States and around the world. But the technology itself proved to be difficult to deploy and, at times, unreliable. EarthLink later admitted that its Wi-Fi business model had not panned out. MORE


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