February 27, 2007
WiFi for all

Some details on the plan to make the citywide WiFi project available to lower income folks.

Under a contract with EarthLink, the company chosen last week to build the network, about 40,000 discount Internet accounts would be available for low-income residents. Those who qualify would have Internet access for about $10 per month, compared with regularly priced accounts that would sell for about $22.

Low-income residents also would get help accessing computers to connect with the Internet, and enrolling in classes to learn how to use it.

The efforts would be funded partly by EarthLink, which is expected to contribute $2 million during the first two years the network is up and running to market the product to potential low-income users, and provide computers and training.

After two years, EarthLink would turn over 3 percent of the revenue generated from the wireless system to the city, which would invest it in efforts to provide Internet access to low-income residents.

Will Reed, CEO of Technology for All, a local nonprofit that helps low-income communities access and use technology, said those funds would need to be matched by other sources to make the program successful.

"One million (per year) won't go very far," he said. "But if we multiply it with corporate contributions and other programs and activities that can build off of it, then I think we have the opportunity to make a difference."

I suspect that with EarthLink opening with $2 million towards this effort, the matching funds will be there. Mayor White has certainly shown the ability to milk those sources when needed. It's not clear from this story how much total funding will be required, but whatever it is, I expect it'll be achieved.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 27, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston

If there was ever a need for inter-governmental cooperation on a project, this one is it. Why should WiFi availability stop at the Houston city limits? Surely if Earthlink has the capability to wire the city, it could extent access to the entire metropolitan area.

Posted by: Dennis on February 27, 2007 9:07 AM