Wednesday, August 29, 2007

EarthLink Pays Houston Fine; Might Be Off the Hook

EarthLink is paying the city of Houston a $5 million penalty fee for missing its first deadline in building the city's municipal Wi-Fi network. The payment might ultimately let EarthLink off the hook for the entire network build, though technically the payment buys about nine months to begin construction. The contract calls for complete construction time of two years.

Of course, EarthLink already has said it is no longer interested in continuing under the original contract terms, so unless the contract is renegotiated in some way, the network won't be built, at least not by EarthLink. It might not be the last fine EarthLink pays.

The city of Houston is also free to take proposals from other vendors during the nine-month period, and could award the contract to another company, observers say.

Considering that at&t offers Houston residents a $15 Digital Subscriber Line service running at 768 kilobits a second, it's hard to see how much share EarthLink might get for a service that will wholesale to retailers at $12 a month for a 1 Mbps service. The retail price then likely will have to be set at $15 or more.

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