Philadelphia details plans for city-wide WiFi By Peter Rojas The Man, aka Verizon, couldn’t shut ‘em down, and now Philadelphia has revealed more details of its plan to bathe 135 square miles of the city in cheap WiFi by mounting wireless access points on streetlights. They’re still in the process of accepting bids (it’ll be private companies that actually build out the network), but the goal is to launch the service by September of next year with service expected to cost residents somewhere between $16 to $20 a month (you can guess why current broadband providers don’t like the plan). The city is also trying to get low-cost PCs into the hands of people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford a computer, since otherwise building out a massive inexpensive wireless network would simply mean subsidizing broadband for people who would normally just pay full-price for high-speed Internet access anyway.
Verizon used their lobbying muscle to get the Pennsylvania state legislature to pass a bill that would have scuttled Philadelphia’s plans to create a giant citywide WiFi network. This would have made it unlawful for them to charge any sort of fee for the service unless they worked with “private partners” and would give the local phone company (in this case, Verizon) right of first refusal to be that private partner, but there’s some sort of good news. Governor Ed Rendell did end up signing the bill, but not until after the city and the telco cut a little side deal where Verizon agreed to automatically waive their right of first refusal. Too bad it basically shafts every other city in the state., They’re not subject to the law, which starting January 1, 2006 will require them to get the permission or cooperation of the local phone company; if the telcos refuse, they have to offer a similar wireless broadband service within 14 months, otherwise the municipality is free to do what they want. Sounds like a complete mess.