As expected, last night the Corpus Christi, TX City Council voted unanimously to reclaim its Wi-Fi network from EarthLink.
The city had signed a contract with EarthLink last March (2007), when EarthLink was feeling more gung-ho about the feasibility of its muni Wi-Fi ventures. The contract, which allowed EarthLink to build out the existing Wi-Fi network being used for municipal services into an income-generating, but low-cost broadband alternative for residents, obligated EarthLink to pay $5.3 million to the city, 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.
Now that EarthLink has re-directed its resources away from muni Wi-Fi, the fate of the network was up in the air (as it were). Rather than leave its Wi-Fi asset in the hands of a company on the ropes, the City Council opted instead to take back control and return the network to its original purpose–smart meter reading and other municipal services.
Reports indicate that as part of the new deal, EarthLink will not be forced to pay up on the promised $1.59 million, but that as a parting gift, the city will get roughly $3 million in equipment and upgrades.
Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-FiPlanet.