In 2007, the city of Philadelphia was finally enjoying some positive national attention. National Geographic had named it America’s “next great city.” The police hadn’t done anything outrageously stupid on national TV in a couple of years.
For the city’s geek crowd, perhaps most exciting was Philadelphia’s promise of becoming the first American city with a cheap, municipal WiFi network. In 2005, Atlanta-based ISP Earthlink signed on to build and manage the network, quickly setting up “proof of concept” zones throughout the city and then beginning to build out the rest of the 135 square mile network.
Eager to get online without having to deal with Comcast, I signed up for Earthlink’s at-home WiFi service, which basically utilized a large router-like device that was supposed to grab the WiFi signal from outside and re-broadcast it at full-speed throughout your house or apartment.
Well, the service was horrendous.
It barely functioned and, when it did, it crawled the Web at dial-up speeds. After several weeks, I had to cancel it and sign up with Comcast.
Upon canceling Earthlink’s service, I was shocked to learn that I was being charged a “termination fee” for something was not functional in the first place. I successfully negotiated for them to waive the fee, but apparently wasn’t the only one who found this practice questionable.
I recently received a postcard in the mail announcing a class action lawsuit against Earthlink for charging subscribers “an early termination fee (ETF) or moving fee.” The case was settled late last month, and Earthlink agreed to offer refunds and fee reductions to as many as 850,000 current and former customers.
Earthlink subscribers and other curious onlookers can go to earthlinkearlyterminationfee.com for information on the suit, including how to collect a refund.
As for the Wireless Philadelphia initiative, as everybody who anxiously anticipated this milestone is aware, the project went south in 2008 and after failed negotiations to transfer the network and its hardware to the city, Earthlink shut it down.
Oh well, maybe next time, Philly.