The City of Anaheim, Calif., last week followed Philadelphia in selecting EarthLink Inc. to finance, build and manage a citywide wireless system. In many ways, the deal resembles an outright franchise agreement than the public-private partnerships originally proposed and that have been implemented in smaller cities such as Provo, Utah. In Anaheim, as in Philadelphia, EarthLink will have top-to-bottom ownership of its network. While the agreement will call for EarthLink to provide open access to other Internet service providers, the Atlanta-based company, not the city, will manage the process and presumably set the terms. This may be the way large-scale municipal wireless evolves. While Philadelphia signaled early that it was seeking to avoid passing the costs onto taxpayers, the decision to give EarthLink complete ownership of the network was an unexpected yet significant change.
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.