Source: EarthLink Press Release
Mayor Bill White today announced that EarthLink (Nasdaq:ELNK) has been chosen by the City of Houston to build a citywide wireless broadband network, pending contract negotiations. The selection comes following the review of five companies that submitted proposals. EarthLink’s experience in developing systems for other cities and its plan to finance the network on the equity of its available cash reserves figured prominently in the selection.
The Wi-Fi mesh network will provide affordable, high-speed Internet access for residents of and visitors to Houston. It will also enable municipal employees to work in the field without having to return to an office to use traditional landlines to complete their tasks.
Houston’s 600-square-mile service area will make this Wi-Fi deployment the largest in North America.
"This is a very important initiative for Houston as it will bring the consumer cost of broadband down significantly and already has," said Mayor White. "It will provide a scarce resource to help our low-income households have access, benefiting students at home, helping telecommuters for whom childcare or transportation creates limitations, and benefiting telemedicine in the future. Houston’s workforce will be more productive."
"Mayor White has made his goals for wireless broadband pretty clear: make City Hall more efficient and responsive and improve both the City’s business climate and residents’ quality of life," said Donald Berryman, EarthLink Executive Vice President and President of the Municipal Networks Unit. "Our Wi-Fi networks give consumers an affordable and portable broadband Internet connection anytime, or any place, throughout the City. We will also offer a fixed wireless solution that when compared to existing landline offerings, is faster to install and much more cost effective."
EarthLink has major initiatives under way in Philadelphia, New Orleans, Alexandria, Va., and Milpitas and Anaheim, California. The company is also finalizing agreements with the cities of Pasadena and San Francisco, California. These initiatives clearly indicate EarthLink has an experience advantage over the other companies that provided proposals. Additional criterion for the project included value to the community (including soundness of the financial plan, low-income inclusion investments and wholesale rates), deployment strategy and value to city government. City Officials spent five months evaluating the firms.
EarthLink agreed to offer a very competitive wholesale rate capped for at least the first seven years. For up to 40,000 low-income users, EarthLink will provide a discounted rate of $10 per month or lower, depending on the competitive wholesale rate.
As part of its commitment to open access, EarthLink will enable multiple providers, such as PeoplePC, Vonage and DirecTV to offer their Internet service to consumers and businesses over its network. For small businesses, Houston’s wireless network will also provide an alternative for broadband connectivity, such as affordable fixed wireless solutions.