The Media Mobilizing Project called on Mayor Nutter today to demand that the city "step in and save" Wireless Philadelphia, the Internet transmitting network that covers about 80 percent of the city. Actually, the group was calling on all Philadelphians to call Nutter's office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to make that demand.
We're still waiting to hear if the phones are ringing off the hook. Nutter hadn't heard of the effort -- or the group -- when PhillyClout asked him about it this afternoon. He called Wireless Philadelphia a "wonderful idea, bad business model" and repeated that he would not be sinking city money into saving the network. Nutter said the group should focus on finding someone to take over the network.
"I'd strongly encourage them, rather than suggesting people just call me, maybe they'd like to talk to folks who actually know something about this and have legitimate ideas about how to make it work," Nutter said. "So far, nobody has stepped forward to say we can do this or we want to put whatever the financial resources in to make it work."
EarthLink, the company that built and maintained the network, asked a federal judge last week to let it break its 10-year contract with Philadelphia, claiming it is losing up to $200,000 a month on a network that didn't draw many customers. The contract calls for the company to make a $1 million payment to the city on Friday. EarthLink has asked the judge to limit any financial liability it has to Philadelphia to just $1 million.
Negotiations fell apart last week on a deal to have a Cleveland-based non-profit take over the network, which EarthLink values at $17 million but was willing to give away. EarthLink now wants the judge's permission to strip the city of the equipment to run the network.
UPDATE: Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver at 3:55 p.m. said the Mayor's Action Center has logged 75 calls so far today from people participating in this campaign.