Wireless Philadelphia from a user’s perspective

In trying to get settled in to Philadelphia, one of the first practical things I did was to sign up for internet service.  (How else will I continue to blog? 😉 Philly provided a unique opportunity because of it’s city-wide wireless initiative. For those new to the concept of city-Read up excellent coverage of this on Breitbart’s blog). As a media justice activist and community advocate, Josh’s writings helped me better understand the politics of access to the internet and corporatization of wireless networks.

From what I understand, the story of Wireless Philadelphia has had its compromises, but I thought this would be a good chance to put my dollar into relatively responsible corporate and support something that could increase affordable access to the community at large. And certainly there was an appeal to spending $20/month versus Comcast’s $43/month to get on the web.

I set up an account with Earthlink and within a week received the equipment needed to access their city-wide wireless network, identified as: FeatherByEarthlink, earthlinkwifi, or WirelessPhiladelphia. (I’m not really sure what the differences were, but they all led me to the same sign-on page). The wireless router they sent in looked like any router, aside from a foot-long “mega-antenna” you need to attach in order to amplify the wireless signal.

Unfortunately, my pursuit turns downhill from here. I found Earthlink’s wireless network to be extremely spotty and too slow to load the flash-filled, image-heavy many websites offer these days. Hell, I couldn’t even get to my bank’s website without getting a message saying that the router timed out because it couldn’t find a signal. Perhaps it was my location (I live in West Philly), perhaps the tall trees that line my street were obstructions, perhaps it was something in the atmosphere..I don’t really know.  Sadly, I had to switch over to the competition (read, Comcast).
I’m no techie, so I don’t know the challenges and intricacies of how to provide a fast, widespread wireless network, while staying affordable. I hope that Earthlink will figure this out and still stay in business.

  1. Hey, Michelle. Thanks for the kind words.

    That sucks that the Earthlink network sucks.

    What neighborhood are you in? Did you try complaining to Earthlink?


  2. Hey Josh — I live right around the corner from Clark Park. I called Earthlink and they tried walking me through steps I had already taken: putting the router next to the window, making sure the antenna is upright, double checking my wireless configurations. None of it improved the signal, unfortunately.

  3. This article made me think of your post.

  4. I think you are selling yourself short. I remember in the not to distance past you buying routers and amplyfiers to access the wireless from accross 2nd street in Detroit. You are more techie than average.

  5. Ah yes, T. Zac — how could I forget…and you remember where that led us. No internet for months! I’ve learned my lessons… 😉

  6. my wireless router at home overheated when i used p2p heavily for 24 hours for the next 25 days `

  7. wireless routers are very necessary nowadays because we do not want so many wires running around the home .~-

  8. Great post. I am facing many of these issues as well.

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