EarthLink, the Internet service provider that hooked up the city through Wireless Philadelphia, announced this morning that it wants to start dismantling the system on June 12. The Atlanta-based company has been looking to get out of the municipal wireless business here and in other cities since November. But Philadelphia has a 10-year contract with EarthLink, signed in February 2006, that calls for the company to pay the city $1 million in 10 days as part of a long-term payment plan.
So EarthLink today went to federal court, asking a judge for permission to pull down its equipment after June 12. You've probably seen the stuff, which EarthLink says has a value of $17 million. It's those little silver boxes with two antennae strapped to streetlights across the city. They broadcast Internet signals to computers with wireless access. EarthLink also asked the federal judge today to limit its financial liability for Philadelphia Wireless to $1 million.
Mayor Nutter today vowed to protect the city's interest under the contact and said he does not intend to spend city money to keep the system up and running. Nutter added that EarthLink had been negotiating with Cleveland-based OneCommunity to take over Wireless Philadelphia but that several potential deals had fallen apart in the last week. OneCommunity, a non-profit, has $25 million in funding for the next five years from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help provide Internet access to 26 cities, including Philadelphia.