San Francisco Wi-Fi May Be in Trouble

San Francisco's plans for free Wi-Fi access around the city may be in jeopardy following EarthLink's failure to respond to proposed changes in the city's contract.

The news follows comments by EarthLink CEO Rolla Huff that seemed to indicate the ISP might be backing off its ambitious municipal wireless plans. For whatever reason, the company did not respond to changes in the contract proposed by city supervisors.

Because of this, a final vote and the beginning of construction will not occur until September at the earliest. City officials wanted higher data speeds and privacy controls written into the contract.

It is not clear whether EarthLink's silence on the San Francisco contract was due to the change of heart within the ISP. However, shortly before the due date, Huff commented that the company is taking a look at its municipal Wi-Fi business, claming it "will not provide an acceptable return" in its current format.

EarthLink seems to now want cities to pony up more cash in exchange for the company offering Wi-Fi services, by being an "anchor tenant." San Francisco seems to be taking issue with that, saying that was never part of discussions at any time.

Mayor Gavin Newsom is not waiting for the Board of Supervisors to act, announcing that he would put the issue of free Wi-Fi on the ballot in November. This would likely mean that the citizens of San Francisco would have the final say in whether the project goes forward.

The city has also decided to give EarthLink another month to respond to requested changes in the contract.

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