[Chtechcomm] City-driven network war in the city of brotherly love
tbuckner at ibiblio.org
Sat Aug 27 09:24:27 EDT 2005
From National Journal, August 22, 2005
By Drew Clark
(Monday, August 22) It is a modern-day “Philadelphia Story”: A major
city bemoans limitations on its high-speed Internet connections,
technology vendors pine for the prospect of new sales, and dominant Bell
telecommunications and cable companies cry foul in the statehouse.
The heightened national controversy over municipal networks can be
traced to Philadelphia’s experiment with wireless broadband, announced
in 2004. But there is dissension in the City of Brotherly Love. Cities
from San Francisco to Corpus Christi in Texas are rushing to follow
Philadelphia’s lead, while statehouses are rushing to follow Pennsylvania’s.
Last December, at the urging of Verizon Communications and
Philadelphia-based Comcast, the commonwealth barred cities and towns
from offering Internet access to consumers for a fee. But after protests
from Philadelphia Mayor John Street, and technology and public-interest
groups, Democratic Gov. Edward Rendell signed a version of the bill that
exempted Philadelphia from the legislation.
Wireless Philadelphia, the nonprofit corporation to provide Wi-Fi
wireless access to the city, was not fully formed until March 31.
Philadelphia Chief Information Officer Dianah Neff repeatedly has said
the project will be “cost-neutral.” The city expects to float bonds
worth $18 million to hire technology companies to build and run the
network, but Neff said it will cover those costs through a monthly
Neff said Wireless Philadelphia is a “cooperative wholesale model.” That
means the city will not sell service directly to the public but “will
contract with between four and seven Internet service providers that
will actually do the end-user service deliver.”
The ISPs will pay a “wholesale fee” of about $9 a month, she said, and
they will sell broadband at 1 megabit per second for about $20 a month.
That is slower than Verizon’s digital subscriber lines or Comcast’s
cable modems. ISPs participating in Wireless Philadelphia also must
agree “to meet the social goals” of bridging the city’s digital divide
by subsidizing poorer households to purchase broadband for about $10 a
“I don’t think we will see high-end customers of Verizon or Comcast”
switching to Wireless Philadelphia, Neff said in an interview, although
“they may add it as an adjunct for mobility.”
Last week, Philadelphia announced contract negotiations with EarthLink
and Hewlett-Packard, the two finalists to become the lead contractor.
For EarthLink, the largest ISP unaffiliated with a cable or Bell
company, the project has become a high-stakes bid because of the recent
decisions by the Supreme Court and FCC limiting competition on cable and
Other tech companies are equally supportive. Intel has been a prominent
advocate of municipal broadband networks and last week announced a
“Digital Communities” initiative highlighting efforts in Philadelphia,
Cleveland, Corpus Christi and Taipei, Taiwan.
“For the last two years in the municipal wireless space, much of the
emphasis was on free networks,” said Paul Butcher, Intel’s marketing
manager for state and local governments. “In the past six to nine
months, the dialogue has changed to [focus on] the real economic
benefits [for cities] and as a way of delivering solutions against the
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Wireless Philadelphia (customer), http://www.wirelessphiladelphia.net/
Wireless Philadelphia (business plan, mission statement, etc.):
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