Back in 2005, I released a report entitled “Risky Business” about Philadelphia’s muni wi-fi plan, which was then in the planning stages. In that report and some subsequent blogs, I laid out a few possible scenarios for what might unfold as problems developed with the municipalization plan, as they always do. I predicted that, as those problems developed and costs grew, it wouldn’t be surprising to find the city proposing a bailout for the plan, or look to selling it off to some other established provider at fire sale prices.
At the time, I got a bunch of grief from pro-muni wi-fi advocates for that prediction. They tried to paint me as some sort of enemy of the people and anti-progress, but I just explained to them that the government’s track-record on the municipalization front was consistent; consistently disappointing that is. That’s usually because the best laid government plans can’t keep pace with marketplace / technological developments in this fast-moving field.
Anyway, I felt strangely vindicated today after I read this blurb from Broadband Reports under the title, “Philadelphia Makes Back-Up Plan In Case Earthlink Bails: The city is prepared to take over if need be“:
Terry Phillis, Chief Information Officer for Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office, has stated that the city expects EarthLink to bail on its construction of a citywide wireless system. He says that more will be known within the next sixty days but the city is making back-up plans for municipal Wi-Fi based on the belief that EarthLink will sell (or entirely abandon) the system. They would prefer if EarthLink sold the system to another provider but are prepared to take it over themselves if need be. Phillis was vague about the city’s plans but stated that the city sees the network as a valuable asset for residents as well as for their tourist economy.
Valuable for the tourist economy? Yeah, I know I make all my travel plans according to which government’s offer muni wi-fi systems. Please.