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Last night, the city council in Corpus Christi, Texas, voted 7-0 to ditch a contract that sold its Wi-Fi network to EarthLink. Corpus Christi had signed the contract with EarthLink in March 2007, when the ISP agreed to pay $5.3 million, plus an additional $340,000, during the first year of service. EarthLink also agreed to pay the city $1.59 million over the course of the next three years.
But less than a year after the relationship was formed, EarthLink began its flight from municipal Wi-Fi networks, leaving the fate of the city’s contract uncertain. Corpus Christi had built out a fully functioning network to provide meter reading, emergency response services and other city-related applications. It does not try to provide free wireless broadband access to citizens, and sold the network to EarthLink so it could provide broadband to residents for a fee.
An assistant city manager told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that, under the city-proposed plan, EarthLink would not have to pay out the $1.59 million, but that the city would get almost $3 million in improvements to the network, as well as equipment, as part of EarthLink’s exit. While it will cost the city $50,000 a year to operate the network, it just wants to get out of an uncertain situation. Why wait to be dumped when you can do the walking?