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.