Wireless Philadelphia: yay or nay?

I’m moving this week, and things have been pretty hectic for me; working, packing, and (most importantly) sleeping have taken up a good amount of my time. I love the new place and the roomie, but I am totally in need of some high-speed internet access at home.

Out comes the research! I’ve been with Comcast for the past six years and really haven’t had too much of a problem with them or their service. Certain Verizon DSL packages appear to be much cheaper, but the City’s partnership with Earthlink for the Wireless Philadelphia project has intrigued me.

Research and more research. It seems that I won’t be able to set up a home network with the wifi service; Earthlink charges an additional $1 for each hour more than one computer is connected to your account. Well, I can deal with that, if the roomie keeps her current internet service.

I’ve tried scouring through blogs and reviews, and have really only come upon a few posts about the service, most of them negative. The reviews of the free zones, like Love Park and Headhead Square, glow but moving outside Center City the reports turn pessimistic, even nasty in one case.

Needless to say, I’m a bit nervous about signing up and forking over $20 a month for service that may or may not work in my new area, regardless of the greens on the coverage map.

Please chime in with your thoughts and experiences!

12 Comments so far

  1. myron (unregistered) on August 24th, 2007 @ 4:31 pm

    I’ve done a lot of research, and from what I can tell you either get the wifi signal or (pretty much) don’t. That is, if you turn on your computer and Earthlink appears on the list of wireless networks you can pick up, you’re good to go. If it doesn’t appear on the list, you’ll have to buy or rent a booster antenna, but the signal may still not be strong enough. In that, it’s a crapshoot whether you’ll be able to use the service.
    Also, there may be a way to have more than one user at the same price. I think you can plug your own router (wireless or not) into the booster antenna, and thus split the single subscription. I haven’t done it myself, however, so I’m not 100 percent sure. Plus, you have to buy the booster (which they call a ‘modem.’) Please update us on how it goes.
    By the way – couldn’t you get a router (for $50 or $60) and just share your roommate’s internet service?

  2. Andrea (unregistered) on August 24th, 2007 @ 4:39 pm

    Thanks for the comments!

    That’s what I’ve heard, that even though you are in the coverage area, you may not be able to connect to the signal, and that the signal inside the house needs the modem (placed on the window).

    Currently my roommate has dialup internet; it wouldn’t be best to share service that way. I’m looking into different services, and so far dsl is winning out (plus buying a new router).

  3. Ivan (unregistered) on August 25th, 2007 @ 1:17 am

    I have Philly WiFI and don’t really like it much. You can use your notebook wifi card but it’s very difficult to get a signal except for parks – even then I only get three bars (Intel Centrino b/g). They say to use the signal amp provided by Earthlink but it requires a wall wart which is no good for mobile pros. I ended up having DSL at home and keeping the WiFi around for work.

    BTW, I think you can use a router with the WiFi service if it has WPA-TKIP. Haven’t gotten a signal without booster. Speed has topped out at 768kb.

  4. Jeff (unregistered) on August 25th, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

    all of the wireless phone providers (vzw, tmo, sprint) cost about 40-60 dollars a month if you use the broadband laptop service. but you get guaranteed service with high speed anywhere in the US that you can get cellular service.
    that would be more practical if you travel a lot and if you weren’t planning on sharing a connection.
    i love my ev-do card!

  5. Tom (unregistered) on August 27th, 2007 @ 9:01 pm

    Hi Andrea,

    I just saw your post. First let me say that yes, I am a little biased as I work for EarthLink in Philadelphia. We have thousands upon thousands of consumers who are very happy with our service.

    Unfortunately most consumers are not motivated to voice their positive experiences with a product or service unless asked directly. Rather, you typically hear the bad stuff even if from a very small percentage.

    The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. I suggest that you try the service yourself. You can do this in a low or no risk manner. First, as mentioned there are free zones where you can get a feel for the service. You can also try connecting to the earthlinkwifi SSID from home and purchase an occasional use pass (1 hour, 1 day, 3 day). The other option is to sign up for our regular service. There is a 30 day cancellation period. Good luck and let me know how it goes. I would be delighted to have you as a customer.


  6. albert (unregistered) on August 27th, 2007 @ 11:51 pm

    i’ve had one friend at 16/reed have bars but zero signal, he canceled. and i had another friend who couldn’t get any signal at all somewhere in center city.

  7. Tom (unregistered) on August 28th, 2007 @ 10:47 am

    Hi Albert,

    Thanks for mentioning the 16th and Reed situation. Any idea of where the other spot was? You may already know this, but the network is still being built out. We log all inquiries/complaints about coverage and put on our list for resolution. This is very much like the early days of cellular. We appreciate the input.


  8. Andrea (unregistered) on August 28th, 2007 @ 11:02 am

    Thanks for chiming in, Tom! That is true, more people voice their complaints than their compliments, so the cons may seem more prominent than the pros.

    Sometime I’ll take my laptop to one of the free zones and see how that works out. I wasn’t aware of the occasional use passes! That seems like a very convenient option.

  9. JJ (unregistered) on September 4th, 2007 @ 11:05 am

    I signed up about a week ago. At 5th and Girard, I get full bars inside my apartment without the modem – just with my laptop.

    However, even with full bars, I’ve been losing the internet at night. It works fine during the day, then suddenly drops out. Oddly enough, Google and GMail work fine even when I can’t access any other sites.

    I called the tech support line and got someone in a call center (assuming overseas based on the heavy accent). They said there was an outage in my area. But every night for a week? And Google still works despite the outage?

    I’m tempted to cancel service and switch back to Comcast.

  10. Adam (unregistered) on September 5th, 2007 @ 11:41 am

    I recently joined the Philadelphia Wi-Fi service because I was excited about the technology and, of course, the good deal. However, I live in the Art Museum area and get no signal. Neither my apartment at 21st and Green nor my gilfriend’s apartment at 24th and Aspen is close enough to a signal. I don’t even pick up a signal if I sit out on the front step! I am upset, and a little angry, that I am technically “within network coverage” but clearly the service is not ready for the consumer market. Unless they put up a new signal right outside my apartment…

  11. Gman (unregistered) on September 5th, 2007 @ 11:06 pm

    I too have had a problem with my signal dropping at night. Like the previous poster, I too can access google (quite fast), but cannot load any other page (usually at night). Sometimes my email is quick (use the outlook or thunderbird client). It seems as though there is some kind of throttling!! Youtube, try again. Barely ever works. I just don’t understand the variances in speed.

    Luckily, I’m within a month. I may cancel and go with a bonafide service. Either that, or continue using my neighbor’s signal. Pretty sad when I’m paying for a service.

  12. david (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

    Trying desperately to obtain an Earthlink wireless Philadelphia signal for my father to use at home. He would like to try broadband instead of dial up. So far no reception. However, I was told twice by Earthlink reps. that I am within coverage area. I am now waiting for a modem to see if it will boost reception. (Neill Drive and Schuylkill Expressway).

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