EarthLink Lands New Orleans

By Eric Griffith

May 26, 2006

The Crescent City chooses the ISP to rebuild citywide mesh Wi-Fi network with both free and paid services.

The city of New Orleans, both pre- and post-Katrina, is no stranger to Wi-Fi. However, even as wireless technologies have helped the hurricane-ravaged city rebound, it has run afoul of a state law that makes it illegal for municipalities to own and run a network offering speeds of 128Kbps or faster. The New Orleans free Wi-Fi was running much faster, at 512Kbps. Local providers and telcos were up in arms, citing it as unfair competition.

Well, they can't complain now, as the competition they'll have in the future will come from EarthLink. The ISP has been selected by the city to rebuild and take over the free access that New Orleans was offering its residents. EarthLink will build a 15 square mile mesh network using equipment from Tropos Networks — and there's some Tropos equipment already installed in the city, so maybe they can reuse it. Backhaul will be done with equipment from Motorola, using MOTOwi4 and Canopy products.

Like previously announced EarthLink citywide mesh networks, this network will have free access up to a limited bandwidth (300Kbps) supported by advertising. Faster service without ads will require a monthly fee. The network will also be open to other providers to offer services to customers (not always an option with the competing telcos).

The network will be installed at EarthLink's expense, without cost to taxpayers.

EarthLink's release quoted recently re-elected New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin as saying, "We are excited to welcome the investment of EarthLink to better connect our citizens and visitors through Wi-Fi. This is another indication that New Orleans is moving to the next generation of technology."

In other news, the Wireless Philadelphia project — also being installed by EarthLink with Tropos equipment — finally got the sealed deal this week when Mayor John F. Street signed the bill Thursday that authorized the deployment, which should commence in June. That network, widely seen as the poster child for whether big-city Wi-Fi nets can even work, will cover 135 square miles by the fall of 2007. EarthLink also has deals in place with the cities of San Francisco (partnered with Google) and Milpitas, California.



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