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It appears Philadelphia's Wi-Fi network is shutting down. It had been held up as a model for citywide Internet access. Today, EarthLink, the company that built it, announced that service in Philadelphia is coming to an end.
Joel Rose reports.
JOEL ROSE: The Philadelphia network was supposed to help the city bridge the digital divide between rich and poor while at the same time bringing in thousands of paying customers for EarthLink. But company vice president Chris Putala says the network never delivered on the second part.
ADAMS: When there's expectations of more than 100,000 consumers signing up for a service and fewer than 6,000 show up, we clearly have a network that has not met the real world proof, despite what all the predictions were a few years ago.
ROSE: From the beginning, the Wi-Fi network was plagued by spotty service and cost overruns. Putala says EarthLink spent $17 million building a system it was willing to give to the city for free. But the mayor's spokesman, Doug Oliver, says maintaining that network could have ultimately cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
ADAMS: It's not just the city. No one has been willing to assume that wireless network and the perceived risk.
ROSE: EarthLink says it expects to pay a million-dollar penalty for breaking its contract with the city after talks broke off this week. The company says it will help its customers find other ways of getting online before deactivating the network on June 12th. It's not clear what will happen to the nonprofit Wireless Philadelphia, which has helped hundreds of low-income customers get computers and cheap access to the Internet.
For NPR News, I'm Joel Rose in Philadelphia.
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