TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Report Critical of Philly's Wi-Fi Plan

Report Critical of Philly's Wi-Fi Plan

Marcus Didius Falco (
Mon, 11 Apr 2005 23:16:17 -0400

Report Critical of Philly's Wi-Fi Plan
By Mark Rockwell
April 11, 2005
news@2 direct

WASHINGTON -- A Bell company-supported think tank has issued a report
that's highly critical of the City of Philadelphia's recently
announced plans for a city-sponsored, city-wide Wi-Fi network.

"My principal conclusion is that the analysis and financial
projections contained in [the City of Philadelphia's Wi-Fi] business
plan are simply not plausible," says Thomas Lenard, senior fellow and
vice president of research at the Progress & Freedom Foundation.

Last Thursday, the City of Philadelphia began asking for bids on the
$10 million Wi-Fi project that would provide low-cost Wi-Fi access to
all Philadelphia citizens across the city's 135 square miles of
territory. The project's aim is to provide low-cost, high-bandwidth
connections for all Philadelphia residents for about $16 to $20 a
month. The winning bidder will install the network by next summer. The
city's plans call for services on the network to be marketed, sold and
billed by the 430 independent, private ISPs operating in the city.

"The Business Plan projects that Wireless Philadelphia [the city's
plan] will be able to offer wireless broadband access to everyone,
everywhere in Philadelphia, at a lower cost than competitive broadband
offerings such as DSL and cable modem," Lenard says. "Notwithstanding
this rosy scenario, the Business Plan asserts that this service
[Wi-Fi] will not be offered by the private sector. But there is no
explanation as to why the private sector would pass up such a profit

The foundation also issued an accompanying essay questioning the
wisdom of local governments' involvement with the rollout of
high-speed networks.

The Progress and Freedom Foundation is backed by many high-tech
companies, including big local wireline phone companies such as
BellSouth, SBC Communications and Verizon Communications, as well as
big wireless companies like Nextel Communications and T-Mobile
USA. The city of Philadelphia got an exemption last fall from a state
law that restricted local governments from installing wireless
Internet access networks. Verizon Wireless had backed the legislation
that forced the city to accelerate its installation plans and forced
the city to give Verizon Wireless "right of first refusal" on any
other plans for wireless network services.

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