Cable and DSL broadband providers in Philadelphia are breathing easier Thursday after the city announced its final Wi-Fi contract with EarthLink that seeks to keep retail prices under $20 a month for individual customers. Verizon Communications, which had resisted the citywide wireless broadband deployment, currently offers DSL at $14.95 a month, for instance.
The agreement will create a huge 135-square-mile hotspot covering the entire city supplied largely by 700 discounted T-1 links.
"We must prepare our citizens and businesses to face the challenges of the 21st Century," said Mayor John F. Street in an announcement Wednesday. "Just as roads and transportation were keys to our past, wireless technology and digital infrastructure are keys to our future."
The deal appears to be win-win for all concerned. EarthLink, which is building the Wi-Fi infrastructure, said it will make a profit from the project. The city will get 22 free neighborhood hotspots, low-income users will be able to use broadband Wi-Fi for $9.95 a month, and some monies derived from the project will be used to fund educational and social programs.
The Wi-Fi speed is planned to be at least 1 Mbps -- fast, but not so fast as to impact cable and DSL broadband offered by private providers. The Mayor's Office anticipates most retail connections can be offered at less than $20 a month.
Donald Berryman, executive vice president of EarthLink and vice president of the firm's municipal networks unit, said he expects 50,000 to 80,000 subscribers to sign up for the project in its early stages. The deployment is scheduled for completion early in 2007.