By Jon Hurdle
Philadelphia has finished testing its wireless Internet project,
setting the stage for America's biggest citywide Wi-Fi network that
will also offer access to low-income households, officials said on
The city government this week approved results from a 15-square-mile
test zone where people can access the Internet for $21.95 a month or
$9.95 if they qualify for low-income assistance.
Access is free in parks and other outdoor spaces, and for people
participating in community programs such as employment training or
By the end of this year, Philadelphia will have wireless Internet
access throughout its 135 square miles in a project being watched by
many cities throughout the world, said Greg Goldman, chief executive
of Wireless Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization set up by the city
to implement the plan.
Although other cities have wireless "hotspots," no other U.S. city as
large as Philadelphia has total Wi-Fi coverage, Goldman said.
"This is a major step toward achieving our vision of the entire city
connected," Goldman said. "Low-income families can begin using the
powers of the Internet to improve their educational, employment and
Wireless Philadelphia aims to provide Internet access for the more
than 300,000 households -- about half of the city -- that cannot
currently get on the Web, and so are unable to perform basic economic
activities such as applying for jobs whose employers only accept
online applications, Goldman said.
Philadelphia, with a quarter of its 1.5 million people officially
below the federal poverty line, is one of the poorest U.S. cities.
For 2,000 of the neediest customers, Wireless Philadelphia plans to
provide free refurbished laptops, a one-year Wi-Fi account, and
educational and technical support in a program that will cost $3
million once funds are raised, Goldman said.
The network is being funded, built and managed by Earthlink, an
Atlanta-based Internet provider, which plans to invest $13.5 million
to complete the project. The company will pay revenue-sharing fees to
Wireless Philadelphia to support its "digital inclusion" project for
Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.
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