In 2005, EarthLink began an ambitious project that would bring free Wi-Fi to the citizens of Philadelphia. EarthLink quit its effort in May because of complaints about signal service. In a city of over a million people, only 6,000 signed up for the EarthLink service. A new group of investors announced that they would finish the project.
Network Acquisition Company, a group made up of local investors, plans to finish the network, which is about 80% complete. Philadelphia is an American city that covers 135 square miles and has a citizenship of 1.4 million.
Mayor Michael Nutter, quick to point out no public money is being used for the Wi-Fi project, hopes the city will see economic opportunities flow from increased Internet access.
“We now have the potential to reach more people with this network than in any other city in America,” he said.
Network Acquisition Company has no plans to optimize the network for indoor users nor to provide customer service assistance. A device called a repeater can be bought for $200. A repeater will bring the Wi-Fi signal inside building but the goal of the company is to provide service for outside use. EarthLink had trouble sending signals into homes, and was therefore unpopular.
Network Acquisition Company plans to pay for the free Wi-Fi by selling businesses technology that allows employees to access corporate networks from remote locations. It is also considering location-based advertising, sponsorships and revenue sharing with specialized consumer application providers. This revenue will pay to complete the network, notably in low-income areas where many people don’t have Internet access.