Citywide WiFi – Earthlink Edition

After Hurricane Katrina the city of New Orleans turned their WiFi mesh network that was intended for crime surveillance into an open network for anyone to use for internet access. It was the first free municipally owned wireless internet system in the nation. This was a brilliant move by the city’s Chief Technical Officer Greg Meffert. Unfortunately LA State laws that prohibit publicly operated WiFi networks put this system at risk of being shut down as soon as the city’s state of emergency is lifted.

Enter EarthLink. The company has just been awarded a contract by the city council to build a WiFi network 15 square-miles surrounding the city. It looks like this plan will consist of two levels of access for residents and visitors to the city. The free access will be limited to 300kbps, while a monthly plan (rumored to be around $20/month) will get speeds up to 1Mbps. It looks like the free access will only be for a limited time – while the city rebuilds.

I am glad to see the city pushing forward on the technological front. It will be important in bringing people and businesses back to the city, and even getting new people to move here. New Orleans has always been an amazing mix of new and old, but it is new and innovative thinking that will prove most valuable in these Post-K days.

5 Comments so far

  1. richard (unregistered) on May 27th, 2006 @ 11:14 am

    Yes, it’s a very cool dealie, except if you look at the map (which isn’t available at NOLA.com–big surprise–but which is printed on the front page of today’s TP), Marigny & Bywater aren’t on the list of neighborhoods to be included in the plan. Which is just plain stupid if you ask me, since (a) we didn’t flood, (b) we were in the first great wave of returnees, and (c) our neighborhood is chock-full of artsy techies who could really benefit from some free wi-fi instead of having to schlep all the way up to Flora or some other stinky hippie hangout just to get work done.

    Bitter? Party of one? Right this way…


  2. Laurie (unregistered) on May 27th, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

    I believe the entire state of Louisiana

    should be free a free internet zone

    no matter what internet system is being used.

    The internet should be free!

    Internet will become free in a matter of a couple of years anyway.

    It’s raining!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I told you guys carpenter ants are psychic when it comes to rain!

    And, Louisiana is to become the first state

    to use all alternate energy sources.

    Laurie


  3. Allison (unregistered) on May 28th, 2006 @ 4:21 pm

    The wireless Internet service was invaluable to our mission team who were in NO back in Dec 2005 (and another team in Apr this year) because we blogged about our experiences. We used the free wireless connection to keep up with folks back home, and to spread the word about rebuilding New Orleans. I’m headed back in October with a third team, and I’ll have to keep up with the status.

    Allison
    Myrtle Beach Team RHINO (Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans)


  4. Dan Frazier (unregistered) on May 30th, 2006 @ 8:37 am

    Sorry to inform you but Greg Meffert is worthless. Re: Interoperable Communications and his Microsoft “buddies” not being involved.


  5. Paul Murphy (unregistered) on May 30th, 2006 @ 9:16 am

    I did not mean to imply that Meffert was perfect. I agree that the interoperable communications grant business was a complete screw-up. I was just giving him a little credit for the WiFi access after the storm. Going back and re-reading my post, I can see how I make it sound like Meffert is a genius, but that wasn’t quite what I meant.



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