New Orleans Taps EarthLink for Wi-Fi

The Crescent City is the latest to hook up with EarthLink to build a new wireless mesh Wi-Fi network.

The New Orleans City Council Thursday approved a deal with the Internet service provider to build a Wi-Fi broadband network, providing high-speed Internet access for residents, businesses and visitors. Under the deal, EarthLink will build the 15-mile square network and provide unlimited free service with no advertisements, with connection speeds as high as 300 kilobits per second. It also will allow competing providers to offer services using the network.

In return, EarthLink will be allowed to offer a paid service tier offering symmetric 1 Megabit per-second links for about $20, depending on final pricing.

EarthLink is not releasing a cost estimate for the network construction, but published reports place the price tag close to $15 million. EarthLink will use mesh Wi-Fi base stations from Tropos Networks and Motorola Inc.’s MOTOwi4 networking products, including its Canopy high-speed backhaul system and Wi-Fi mesh networking gear.

The mesh network construction comes at a time when the city is still recovering from extensive Hurricane Katrina damage.

"We are excited to welcome the investment of EarthLink to better connect our citizens and visitors through Wi-Fi. This is another indication that New Orleans is moving to the next generation of technology. It's one more sign that New Orleans is rebuilding for the future; creating a safer, smarter and more efficient environment for all people," said Mayor Ray Nagin, a former Cox Communications executive.