Philadelphia plans to say in February how it will build and maintain a network for providing free or inexpensive wireless high-speed Internet access throughout the city.
We have an announcement date scheduled for Feb. 7 in which the mayor will announce how we are going to move forward with the project, said Dianah Neff, the city’s chief information officer.
Mayor John F. Street announced in August that the city had established the Wireless Philadelphia Executive Committee to work with Neff to devise a plan for funding, building and running the network. The committee delivered the plan to the mayor last month.
The goal is to have the network up and running by the fall of 2006, said Ed Schwartz, a member of the committee and the head of the Institute for the Study of Civic Values, which is based in Philadelphia.
Neff said the network would cost about $10 million to set up and $1.5 million annually to maintain. She said the committee’s plan gets that money from sources other than tax revenue, but she wouldn’t specify what they are. Possible alternatives are foundations and banks, which Neff said could use contributions to the network to meet their requirements under the U.S. Community Reinvestment Act.
We had to put together a business plan that showed a good return-on-investment model [for the network], which we believe we have, she said.
The city provides free wireless high-speed Internet access in five locations, including the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Love Park. Street hopes making it available citywide will promote economic development by making the city more attractive to well-educated young people and help ease the digital divide by providing Internet access to people who might otherwise not be able to afford it.
Philadelphia’s initial announcement that it intended to set up a citywide wireless broadband network garnered international attention for the city. It also joined it in a battle that other cities with similar intentions have been fighting with commercial providers of high-speed Internet access.
A telecommunications bill considered by the Pennsylvania leg