MARIA PANARITIS: Coming up: an over-the-counter paternity test becomes available in Pennsylvania . We’ll tell you whether it actually works and what it costs. We’ll also tell you why good news for Comcast could be bad news for Philadelphia ’s struggling wi-fi network. Philadelphia Business Today starts now.
MARIA PANARITIS: Paternity disputes. They’ve played out for years in high drama on daytime TV. Well, starting this week, if you’ve ever wondered if your parents are who they say they are, just walk into your local Rite-Aid. The Pennsylvania-based pharmacy chain has begun selling do-it-yourself DNA paternity kits. Until now, you had to go to a clinic, order a kit online or, for the more daring among us, book a spot on Maury Povich. The manufacturer is Identigene. The company says this small box flew off Rite-Aid shelves during a test run on the West Coast a few months ago. Now it’s gone national. Mike Armstrong talked to Inquirer science reporter Faye Flam about the new tests. His first question: do they work?
FAYE FLAM: Well, I just talked to a guy who used to be chief of DNA for the FBI and he said yes, that paternity testing is extremely accurate, 99.9%, if it’s done right. And he said the gold standard for labs is to be certified by the American Association of Blood Banks and the group that’s selling these tests, Identigene, is in fact accredited with that group. So there’s no reason to think it won’t work.
MIKE ARMSTRONG: So it costs $20 for the test kit and $119 to get the test results. Is that a cost-effective way to determine paternity?
FAYE FLAM: I think it depends on what you want from it. If you just want to satisfy your own curiosity, it’s about the cheapest way you can do it. If you want something that going to be legally binding, then this, this won’t work for you because you really need to have proof that the DNA samples came from who you say they came from. And, so, you’d have to go through different channels, through a lawyer to have something that would be binding in court.
MIKE ARMSTRONG: The company behind the test says it’s been selling really well on the West Coast. Does it surprise that it’s been selling so well?
FAYE FLAM: A little bit. I mean, it’s no surprise that people are curious about this kind of thing, but it is kind of surprising that people wouldn’t want the anonymity of the web, that they’d be willing to actually walk up to somebody behind a counter with a test that suggests that either you think your wife cheated or you don’t know who the father of your baby is.
MARIA PANARITIS: Word this week that Comcast is hatching a deal for super-fast wireless with Google, Sprint, Nextel and Intel. If it goes through, this massive deal to promote WiMax wireless technology could be good news for consumers. But would it be the final nail in the coffin for Philadelphia ’s struggling wireless network? I asked Inquirer business reporter Bob Fernandez, “What is the story these days with Philly wi-fi?”
BOB FERNANDEZ: There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. Earthlink, which funded it and got it going, wants to sell it, which probably means it’s not making money and it won’t make any money. And there’s been a lot of technology issues related to it. You know it’s a technology that doesn’t really go through walls very well. So the city has had to tell people that if they want to have their laptops, they gotta-or their computers, they gotta move them next to windows. There’s some holes in the city; in other words, there are places where you can’t get it. So, there’s a lot of uncertainty with it.
MARIA PANARITIS: Another question I had for Bob: Is there any hope that WiMax could somehow improve Philly’s wi-fi network?
BOB FERNANDEZ: I don’t think it’ll improve the wi-fi network in Philadelphia . Because to improve it, you’re going to need a lot more investment. And I don’t think the technology will get there. But WiMax, everybody considers to be the next thing, the next best thing in wireless. It has a- it roams over a long period- many miles and it penetrates walls. And it’s fast. It’s like as a cable modem. I’m not sure if wi-fi will ever be able to compete with WiMax.
MARIA PANARITIS: That’s it for today. Coming tomorrow, a report on supercommuters. We look at how gas prices have changed the game completely. At the Inquirer, I’m Maria Panaritis for PhiladelphiaBusiness Today.
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