Is it bye-bye Wi-Fi in Philadelphia?

Earthlink announced Tuesday that they are going to discontinue operation of its muni Wi-Fi network in Philadelphia. They say that they tried to transfer ownership of the network to Philadelphia or to a nonprofit (Wireless Philadelphia, I assume) for free but that the transfer “unraveled due to unresolved issues among the City, Wireless Philadelphia and the non-profit.” Holy WAP Batman!

According to Earthlink that’s $17M worth of equipment plus they would pay some cash and donate new Wi-Fi equipment. Since they can’t transfer, Earthlink says they will remove the network at their cost and try to find alternative Internet connections for customers.

Meanwhile, the Wireless Philadelphia Blog says:

Philadelphia’s Wi-Fi network continues to operate in the roughly 80% of the City in which it has been deployed (see map). Nothing in the ten-year Network Agreement permits EarthLink to unilaterally impose deadlines for the network’s transfer, turn off the network or remove network equipment.

Metro Philadelphia and CNET have stories.

Meanwhile, back at the Minneapolis ranch, the USIW progress map says the network is scheduled to be completed in April, 2008. The tiny map on the page indicates the network is live in most of the city but there are several large “challenge areas” where it’s not working. It would be nice to see an update as to what’s going on especially since the Digital Inclusion Fund is waiting on $200,000 from USIW once the network is done and the City signs off.

Thanks to Ed Kohler for a heads up on the Philadelphia situation. He blogs at The Deets and Technology Evangelist.

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