San Francisco, EarthLink have tentative Wi-Fi deal
By Eric Auchard
The City of San Francisco and EarthLink said on Friday they had
reached a tentative deal to offer free wireless Internet access,
promising to make it the first major U.S. city to deliver municipal
Wi-Fi services citywide.
Internet access provider EarthLink Inc. is working with partners
including Google Inc. to develop a free wireless Internet program
throughout the hilly city of 777,000 residents under a preliminary
agreement announced last April.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said the agreement reached on Friday
between the city and EarthLink will provide wireless Internet access
at no cost to taxpayers and extend to cover neighborhoods throughout
San Francisco over time.
"Ubiquitous Wi-Fi will change how residents access education, social
services and economic opportunities," Newsom said.
The deal, which gives EarthLink access to public rights of way to
install the necessary Wi-Fi radio antennas, follows more than a year
of negotiations and public hearings where backers sought to assuage
the public over privacy and security concerns.
The next step is for the city's Board of Supervisors to review the
agreement and decide whether to approve the deal.
"We look forward to working with the Board of Supervisors to gain
approval of the agreement so we can begin building out the network in
2007," Donald Berryman, president of EarthLink's municipal networks
unit, said in a statement.
EarthLink has said it plans to offer the free, 300 kilobit-per-second
Wi-Fi service alongside a premium commercial service at speeds of 1
megabit or faster for around $20 a month. This commercial service would
target consumers and businesses looking for faster Internet access.
In late 2005, the city received 26 proposals from private and
nonprofit organizations on how to deliver universal Wi-Fi service
throughout San Francisco. Rival proposals came from telephone
companies, Internet service providers and grassroots groups.
The EarthLink wireless access plan contrasts with the current
hodgepodge of wireless connections typically offered by public,
nonprofit and government entities in busy "hot spots" in and around
major public buildings or plazas in many cities.
Other cities including Philadelphia, New Orleans and Portland, Oregon,
are also developing citywide wireless networks of their own.
Details of the San Francisco-EarthLink deal can be found at
Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.
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