Philadelphia Wireless Update

Web buzz this weekend as Philadelphia approves Earthlink’s 15-square-mile proof-of-concept network and Earthlink is going to begin build-out of the 135-sq.-mile system that is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2007.

As in Minneapolis, Earthlink is building and managing the Wi-Fi system and will share revenues with Wireless Philadelphia, a non-profit created by the city to fund digital divide/inclusion projects.

Earthlink is offering limited-time promotional rates of $6.95/month for 1 Mbps service and $9.95 for 3 Mbps service (with a 1 Mbps upload speed—why not symmetrical)? The rates will stay in place for the first six months and then go to $19.95 and $21.95 respectively.

US Internet’s Minneapolis rates are much higher. There is a current deal of $14.95/month for 1 to 3 Mbps service and $24.95/month for 3 to 6 Mbps service. This will last until the network is finished. After that, basic 1 Mbps service will cost $19.95 and the higher speed will go to $29.95. US Internet does provide symmetrical connections for downloading and uploading. Personally, I’d choose the slower upload speed and lower price in Philadelphia for the 3 Mbps service.

Earthlink has the right idea for getting community buy-in to the service. At $6.95/month, I would definitely try out the wireless system while keeping my current DSL. That’s harder to justify at $14.95/month—over twice the Eathlink-Philadelphia rate. Plus my expectations for customer support would be somewhat tempered at $6.95.

Current customer support and network reports are not good here in Minneapolis. Roy, my friend down the block, bought in early here in pilot project land. There were connectivity problems immediately that were finally resolved but now they are upgrading the network and he can’t really rely on his connection at all. I would hope they offer him a free month of service for the problems.

My own customer service issue is with an email I sent on May 15 asking about the number of log-ins available with a single account. So far, I’ve heard nothing back.

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