Philadelphia’s municipal wi-fi network has found a white knight: A group of local investors will bail out EarthLink, the Internet service provider that built the $17 million network but recently decided to get out of the business, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
What will they do with it? Offer free w-ifi service to all, or, as the Inquirer notes, “at least in those places where the spotty network is available.” They’ll try to make money selling ads and by seeking paying corporate subscribers like hospitals and universities. EarthLink had tried to charge people $20 per month for access — cheaper than some cable/telco Internet offerings, but not enough for true cheapskates.
The buyers — which include a former Verizon (VZ) executive and the former interim CEO of Philly’s wi-fi nonprofit — are probably getting the system for pennies on the dollar: Last month, EarthLink (ELNK) said it was having trouble selling the network, and threatened to shut it down.
EarthLink CEO Rolla Huff started pulling the plug on municipal wi-fi shortly after he was appointed last summer to focus the company on activities that generate cash, like its shrinking (but still profitable) dialup Internet access business.
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