|For Immediate Release||For More Information, Contact|
|November 29, 2006|
|Brian Hannigan, Public Information Officer, or|
Raynard Owens, Communications Officer, at 703.838.4300
Raynard Owens, Communications Officer, at 703.838.4300
Alexandria City Council Supports Citywide Wireless Franchise Award
EarthLink Project Will Provide Free Wireless Internet In Public Spaces Throughout City
Franchise To Be First In The Greater Washington Area And Virginia
The Alexandria City Council gave its unanimous support Tuesday evening to a proposal to allow EarthLink, Inc., to build and operate a citywide wireless network. The franchise ordinance, which was recommended to City Council by City Manager James K. Hartmann following a competitive bidding and negotiation process that began in May, is now scheduled for public hearing and possible final passage at the Council’s December 16 meeting.
Under the agreement, EarthLink would build and maintain the network at the company’s own expense, with no taxpayer funding or City financial involvement. To recoup its investment, EarthLink would sell wireless services to homes and businesses, using small, pole-mounted devices throughout the City. In exchange for the right to mount equipment on public property, EarthLink would provide a variety of public benefits and fees, estimated to be worth more than $13 million over the eight-year term of the franchise agreement.
Although other cities have experimented with wireless hotspots and limited coverage areas, Alexandria will be one of relatively few jurisdictions with complete wireless coverage. Among the localities that do have citywide networks, many involve taxpayer funding, unpredictable advertising revenue, or limited community benefits. Alexandria’s innovative network model, in which the public receives significant benefits without any government funding, is believed to be the first of its kind in Virginia and the Washington, D.C. region, and among the first in the nation.
“This initiative has tremendous potential for Alexandria’s residents, businesses, students, and government,” said Mayor William D. Euille. “We believe this is a smart way for the City to encourage broadband development, without interfering with the private sector.”
The availability of wireless Internet would benefit consumers by stimulating additional price and service competition in the market. EarthLink has indicated that basic residential Internet service would initially be priced at approximately $21 per month. Visitors would also be able to purchase hourly or daily access. The project would not be a joint venture or
partnership, the franchise would not be exclusive, and the City government would not be a service provider.
EarthLink would operate an open network, meaning that other providers may purchase wholesale accounts to resell to their customers.
In addition to an estimated $2.7 million savings to taxpayers over the cost of a government-funded network for municipal applications, the proposed franchise agreement includes the following:
• Accounts for Government Use: EarthLink will provide free and discounted wireless Internet accounts for use by City field workers such as public safety personnel and housing inspectors, as well as by “smart” devices such as traffic cameras and parking meters.
• Accounts for Student Use: EarthLink will provide free access to 2,700 laptops currently issued to Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) ninth grade center and high school students, in order for them to access the Schools' existing network 24 hours per day. This will give home Internet access to students who may not otherwise have such access, and will allow students to access other ACPS network resources such as homework dropboxes and printers. ACPS will continue to filter student Internet access, to reduce the availability of inappropriate content.
“Alexandria’s public schools have long been a leader in instructional technology, through our innovative laptop program and other classroom services,” said ACPS Superintendent Rebecca Perry. “With the addition of citywide network and Internet access, we may now be the first jurisdiction in the nation to provide such extensive resources to our students.”
• Digital Inclusion Accounts: EarthLink will offer a fixed price of $9.95 per month, for the term of the franchise, to up to 2,700 low-income residents (approximately four percent of Alexandria households). This represents a discount of more than half off EarthLink’s current projected retail rate. Eligible residents will be qualified under guidelines to be determined by the City, and the City may partner with community non-profit organizations to assist in distributing these accounts and providing low-cost computers and computer training to complement the Internet access.
• Free Public Internet Access Areas: EarthLink will provide free public Internet access in approximately two dozen locations, which are expected to include the entire Potomac River waterfront and adjacent parks, the King Street corridor from Callahan Drive to the waterfront, the Mt. Vernon Avenue corridor between Hume Avenue and E. Braddock Road, and all Alexandria Metrorail, Amtrak, and VRE stations. The additional areas will consist of major parks located throughout the City, and Landmark Mall.
• Fees and Rent: EarthLink will pay the City an annual share of its retail access revenues, and a monthly rental fee for each City-owned pole or building rooftop used.
The City received 10 private-sector proposals in response to an invitation to bid issued in May. EarthLink's proposal was selected primarily on the basis of the company's financial strength and previous experience with municipal wireless projects; its proposed technology to deploy the network; and its offer of public benefits in exchange for the franchise.
Founded in 1994, EarthLink is a recognized national Internet service provider with more than 5.3 million current subscribers in the United States and several other notable municipal wireless deployments (including Philadelphia, Anaheim, and New Orleans). EarthLink is a publicly-traded company with total revenues in 2005 of $1.3 billion, and has created a dedicated Municipal Networks division. EarthLink's equipment partners for this project are Motorola and Tropos Networks, both leaders in municipal wireless technologies.
Construction of the network is expected to take six to nine months after a franchise is granted. Detailed information is posted at http://www.wirelessalexandria.com.
Since April 2005, the City of Alexandria has provided the D.C. region’s first free, outdoor wireless Internet zone. The current “Wireless Alexandria” outdoor coverage area is centered along the King Street pedestrian corridor in Old Town, and includes outdoor dining, Market Square, and the City Marina and Potomac River waterfront. Wireless Alexandria is also available at all Alexandria public libraries.
For more information about this initiative, contact E-Government Manager Craig Fifer at email@example.com or 703-519-3468.
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