Supporters of Philadelphia's soon-to-be-disconnected citywide wireless network are staging a phone-in protest today, calling on Mayor Nutter to save the system before its operator, EarthLink Inc., pulls the plug as anticipated on June 12.
"In 2005 the city made a promise to provide every Philadelphian, regardless of income, with reliable access to the Internet," Shivaani Selvaraj of the Media Mobilizing Project said in a statement. "Mayor Nutter is obligated to ensure the city makes good on that promise."
The Nutter administration has consistently opposed investing public money to save the system.
"We intend to adhere to City Council's initial position on this project, which is that the city should not be spending any significant amount of money on it," said mayoral spokesman Doug Oliver.
The city and EarthLink seemed close earlier this month to a deal that would have transferred ownership of the network to an Ohio-based nonprofit at minimal cost to taxpayers, thus preserving WiFi access for the low-income Philadelphians the system was intended for.
That deal collapsed, however, and EarthLink abruptly announced it was bailing out of its 10-year service contract.
The company asked a court to limit its contractual liability to $1 million and to grant the company permission to remove its equipment from city utility poles.
Wireless Philadelphia, the city-affiliated nonprofit that has the contract with EarthLink, is still trying to salvage the network. City officials, however, do not seem confident the system can be saved.
"At this point we're focused on the court proceedings, but if there's an opportunity that's presented to us, we'll obviously take a look at it," Oliver said.