Investors plan to offer free Internet access supported by ad revenue

When Earthlink first started on its ambitious plan of rolling out WiFi access inside of cities one of the first and largest networks that it installed was in Philadelphia. reports that Earthlink spent about $17 million to build the network.

While some users were able to access the Earthlink service for free or at a discounted rate, the bulk of customers were charged $20 per month to use the WiFi access. The network only had about 6,000 customers at its high point thanks to spotty indoor coverage and much faster plans from other providers for the same amount of money.

The final nail in the Earthlink network’s coffin in Philly was when Earthlink announced in May 2008 that users of the network had 30 days to find other service before the WiFi network was shut down. Earthlink looked to sell the network to another provider and had entered into negotiations with an Ohio based non-profit organization according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Those negotiations later fell apart leaving Earthlink with few options but to petition the courts to allow the removal of their hardware from city owned streetlights.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that local investors banded together to purchase the WiFi network from Earthlink. The investors include Derek Pew and Mark Rupp and they intend to take the network in a different direction by possibly offering WiFi access for free to all users and supporting the network on ad revenues.

The investors also say that they intend to pursue institutions like hospitals and colleges with an offer to allow them to extend their in-house networks across the city over the former Earthlink WiFi network for an additional fee.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
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