The closely-watched municipal wireless project in Philadelphia suffered another delay as the city council’s Committee on Technology & Information Services and Public Property & Public Works postponed Thursday’s public hearing on the city’s pending contracts with EarthLink until next week. Observers believed that the committee was going recommend approval the four deals that cover the Wireless Philadelphia project with EarthLink, plus a fifth that involves the purchase of electricity to power the wireless antennas that EarthLink will mount on city light poles and other right-of-way through the city’s 135-square-mile area. The postponement is the latest in a series of delays for the project. Wireless Philadelphia, the city-affiliated non-profit agency partnering with EarthLink, had originally hoped to consummate the deal in December. EarthLink has the right to pull out of the agreement if the city does not approve the deal by the end of its spring session. While it had looked as if Philadelphia would be the first of the top 30 U.S. cities to launch a city-wide WiFi network, that distinction became Anaheim’s last week, according to Business 2.0. While eyes have been on Philadelphia and Portland, Ore., Anaheim, which initiated its project after those two cities announced their own plans, managed to beat both to launch. Could it be because, of all the major municipal proposals thus far, Anaheim chose not to impose price controls, forced sharing or network neutrality, and in general, kept the city government as distant as possible from the business operation?
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.