by Stephen Lawson

Philadelphia Says Yes to Wi-Fi

Jul 15, 20062 mins

Philadelphia CIO Dianah Neff sees green lights ahead for the city’s high-speed wireless project, which was approved by the city council on May 11. The citywide network, designed to cover 135 square miles, was set to begin construction in June and should finish testing in a 15-square-mile trial zone in September.

If the technology performs as promised, a full rollout will take place over the following nine to 12 months, Neff says. The result will be both a Wi-Fi infrastructure from Tropos Networks for 1Mbps residential service and a Canopy mesh network from Motorola, allowing users connectivity across a wide area.

City council approval was the last major hurdle for the controversial network. Similar projects nationwide are being fought by large cable and telecom providers (for more details, see Wi-Fight.

Within five years, the city expects 20 percent of local businesses with less than 10 employees (about 2,600 companies) to subscribe to the T-1 service. The wireless project was not designed with large enterprises in mind, Neff says.

EarthLink will build and own the network, offering its own Internet access service and also selling access wholesale to other Internet service providers. The city will pay nothing and receive right-of-way fees as well as some free accounts for official use. A nonprofit group, Wireless Philadelphia, will oversee EarthLink’s operation of the network.

The regular price of the residential Wi-Fi service should be around $20 per month. Meanwhile, EarthLink and the city are working to set a subsidized price for low-income residents, estimated at about $10 a month. Prices have not yet been set for the T-1 service.

A large part of the motivation behind the project is to bring broadband to residents who can’t afford it and small businesses in areas where existing high-speed services are hard to get, Neff adds.