Microsoft's recent decision to team with MetroFi and provide services for a Wi-Fi network in Portland, Ore., could be the first shot in the next war among Internet service providers. Microsoft -- like Google, which has teamed with EarthLink to build a Wi-Fi network in San Francisco -- sees revenue potential in competing with cable and telephone companies for high-speed Web users.
EarthLink CEO Garry Betty said the company has made "some very bold steps" in its effort to create value for shareholders. Betty said the ISP plans to spend $75 million to $100 million this year on its growth initiatives, adding that it probably will report a net loss for 2006. He also touted the prospects for municipal Wi-Fi and its Helio wireless venture.
EarthLink and Google announced via EarthLink's blog a joint proposal to build and operate a Wi-Fi network in San Francisco. Under the plan, EarthLink would offer a fee-based Wi-Fi tier similar to the one it's planning for Philadelphia, while Google would offer free connectivity.
Philadelphia finalized a 10-year contract with EarthLink to set up a Wi-Fi network across the city. The contract stipulates that EarthLink build and maintain the network with its own money and is contingent on whether the City Council approves a second agreement to let the ISP put access points in city-owned lightposts.