Muni WiFi Falls Flat in Philadelphia, Study Examines Why and Suggests Strategies for the Future

By: Nicole A. Ozer

We've blogged about the shortcoming of some muni WiFi plans on several occasions. Many networks were built from the ground-up to invade consumer privacy and free speech for profit. Now several of these systems seem to have fallen flat.

EarthLink, once the champion of muni WiFi and a willing partner for many cities across the country, announced in November that it was pulling out of many proposed systems.

The company recently declined to attend a hearing of the Philadelphia City Council about the EarthLink-built WiFi network. Hopefully this does not mean that EarthLink is leaving the City of Brotherly Love with a $20- million network that is only three-fourths complete.

Other cities might want to learn from Philadelphia's WiFi experience as they formulate their own high-speed Internet access plans. A new study might help them do just that.

Released by the New America Foundation, The Philadelphia Story: Learning from a Municipal Wireless Pioneer, focuses on the interplay between industry, decision makers and constituencies. The report only discusses privacy issues very briefly, but luckily you can turn to the ACLU of Northern California's work for a full run-down of the privacy and free speech issues involved in municipal wireless.