December 21, 2006 1:05 PM PST
EarthLink rolls out more citywide Wi-Fi
On Tuesday, the Internet service provider announced that Milpitas, Calif., had begun offering service over its new citywide Wi-Fi network built by EarthLink. And on Thursday, New Orleans turned on its citywide Wi-Fi network.
EarthLink, which has had to rely on cable and DSL (digital subscriber line) networks to deliver broadband service to consumers, is using Wi-Fi, an unlicensed radio frequency technology, as an affordable way to build its own broadband infrastructure.
Over the past year, the company has won bids to blanket eight cities with Wi-Fi, including high-profile projects in Philadelphia and San Francisco. In June it launched its first network in Anaheim, Calif.
In New Orleans, the 20-square-mile Wi-Fi mesh network covers parts of Orleans Parish, which was devastated by last year's Hurricane Katrina. In an effort to help rebuild New Orleans, EarthLink is providing a free tier of service--available up to 300 kilobits per second--for residents and businesses throughout the coverage area. Consumers can access the free tier by logging on to the Web site
Like residents in Anaheim and Milpitas, New Orleans residents will also have access to higher-speed service. Subscribers can pay $21.95 per month for a symmetrical 1 megabit per second downstream and upstream service. The service also includes up to eight e-mail mailboxes as well as security services like SpamBlocker and the EarthLink Protection Control Center.
For occasional users, EarthLink is also offering a one-hour pass for $3.95 and a three-day pass for $15.95. These customers will connect and access account information from the EarthLink portal page. Business and wholesale partners will also be able to access city government agencies via the network, EarthLink said.
While citywide Wi-Fi networks are much less expensive to build than other kinds of networks, such as fiber-to-the-home, they still have some issues. Several smaller cities that have already deployed Wi-Fi, such as St. Cloud, Fla.; Tempe, Ariz.; and Chaska, Minn., have experienced coverage issues. And users have complained about not getting access inside their homes.