Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Wireless Philadelphia officially announced today that they have reached an agreement with a local investor group called Network Acquisition Company LLC (NAC) to take over the operations of Philadelphia's Wireless Initiative. Under the terms of the agreement, NAC will assume operation of the existing EarthLink infrastructure and will expand the network as part of their plan to eventually bring free wireless to the city. In May, EarthLink pulled the plug on its $17 million municipal WiFi network in Philadelphia after failing to reach an agreement with the city to take over the network.
Rick Rasansky, local entrepreneur and co-founder of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of global wireless networking group Mobile Monday, co-founded NAC and led this transaction on behalf of the investor group. Rasansky worked with City Councilman Bill Green, the Mayor's Office and a number of government agencies to bring the deal together within weeks.
"Greg Goldman and Derek Pew from Wireless Philadelphia spoke at the inaugural Mobile Monday Mid-Atlantic event in September 2007, so our group was already well aware of the opportunities presented by the muni-WiFi infrastructure," Rasansky said in a press release. "When EarthLink decided to cease operations, we invited Councilman Green to speak to our May meeting, where he expressed his view that free city-wide WiFi was a 'must have' for the city, the region and its residents... We felt that the unique business and community opportunities that would be made possible by ubiquitous WiFi coverage in Philadelphia more than justified the additional investment needed to complete the network build, so we set out to bring together a group of local investors and businesspeople to keep the vision of Wireless Philadelphia alive."
According to Councilman Green, the efficient use of the network by the city itself could save the municipality $3 million per year in the short term and $10 million to $15 million per year in the long term. The network is 80 percent complete.
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