Philly WiFi Network To Charge $20/mo

Earthlink, the RFP winner for Philadelphia’s Muni WiFi network, has given some clarification about their planned pricing and business model. When we first picked up this story in September 2004, we quoted Philly’s CIO as, “If you’re out on your front porch with a laptop, you could dial-in, register at no charge, and be able to access a high speed connection…” But now we learn the price for subscribers will be around $20 per month ($10 for qualifying low-income families). I’m curious about why nobody in the blogosphere or press is discussing the fact that this is a significant change from the original rhetoric from the Philly government? Sure, that $20 sounds quite reasonable to me, but that’s because I was one of the people who doubted that these networks could be successfully deployed cheaply. Now, the price is more expensive than the introductory price of DSL. The timing for initial deployment is slated for 2007 – which is a long time after the discussion started in 2004. Could it be that Muni WiFi is not as quick, cheap, and easy as originally expected?

We've both praised and criticized Philadelphia in the past because it seems they have the most well-crafted approach to muni-WiFi that we've seen, but we still have doubts about using WiFi in a Wide Area deployment. That doesn't mean that we're against Municipally backed ISPs, even if I am quoted in the notorious New Millenium Report. Some of our earliest doubts about Muni WiFi were the unrealistic claims made by the early announcements for citywide networks, which promised great coverage, social benefits, and free or low prices.

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