Newcomer picked to deploy largest U.S. muni wireless net

The largest-ever muni Wi-Fi project in the U.S. is turning to newcomers to deploy, own and operate its proposed $50 million, 750 square mile network. Suffolk and Nassau counties on New York’s Long Island yesterday announced e-Path Communications of Tampa, Fla., got the job.The largest-ever muni Wi-Fi project in the U.S. is turning to newcomers to deploy, own and operate its proposed $50 million, 750 square mile network. Suffolk and Nassau counties on New York’s Long Island yesterday announced e-Path Communications of Tampa, Fla., got the job.

Founded in 2006, e-Path is so new that parts of its website are still under construction. So are its deployments. e-Path is presently involved in a deployment in Delray Beach, Fla., and is in negotiations in Trenton, NJ. An article in The New York Times quotes county executives on Long Island as saying that the young firm was chosen largely because it was willing to pursue the project without financial commitments from the counties.

What the company lacks in deployments, it makes up for in the experience of its officers. All have deep backgrounds in telecommunications and that evidently was another magnet for the Long Island counties. Co-founder Joseph Tortoretti has a history of striking key partnerships in a variety of undertakings. In the Long Island project, he has two important ones in Cisco as the equipment provider and KeySpan which will provide the fiber backbone for the project. KeySpan is the electrical provider to the Long Island Power Authority and distributes electricy and natural gas throughout the northeast. It has an impressive balance sheet with a market cap of more than $6 billion and is somewhat diversified. Its communications branch is providing the fiber optics for the Long Island network.

In Delray Beach, e-Path has partnered with ATC International and The Vision team on a network designed to address the digital divide and provide broadband access to residents at competitive rates. There, as in Long Island, the company is funding the deployment and plans to recoup its investment through the sale of higher speed services.

The model echoes the one EarthLink pursued and is now backing away from. Joe Panettieri has an analysis of some of the questions on our minds. Be sure to check out the comments to his analysis for questions from some of our readers.

Click here to read Joe’s analysis

Click here to read The New York Times article.

Comments

  1. It’s good that one of the partners in the consortium owns a fiber network without fiber, it’s hard to see how a muyni wireless network can deliver the kind of bandwidth that people expect.

    What I’d like to know is whether KeySpan will use the wireless network for automated meter reading and other utility applications. Corpus Christi, Texas built a citywide Wi-Fi network ($25M) using its own money because it uses the network primarily for wireless AMR. Corpus Christi outsourced the public access portion of the network to EarthLink.

  2. I’ve addressed some of these questions and comments on my blog:
    http://www.cedx.com/2007/08/some-answers-to.html

  3. I’m very curious about the priorities for addressing the digital divide. THat was to be a priority of the counties and yet The Times article says free service and signal boosters will go to those who qualify under federal poverty guidelines. Those guidelines are notoriously inadequate for the east coast in general and Long Island in particular because the cost of living in the area is so much higher than that of the rest of the United States. So I expect the definition of need based on those guidelines will be inadequate to help the many families just agove them. I also question the motivation of deploying service first at the Nassau Coliseum. Is the first priority really to serve concert-goers and sports fans?

  4. Larry McNeill says

    IT really bugs me to see people question other peoples motives for how they want to design and deploy networks using their OWN money. Leave these guys alone or put up your own cash and go do the network. In the end, the county will have a say as to whether they met the terms of the agreement. I applaud them for taking on such an ambitious project while everyone else sits on the sidelines and criticizes motives, business models, etc. Go e-path. and good luck…

  5. • Posted by Carol Ellison at 1:08 AM on August 17, 2007

    Update Newcomer picked to deploy largest U.S. muni wireless net

    This article is flawed and embarrassing, please do your homework properly;

    Keyspan is a gas delivery provider, whom is about to be taken over by an English conglomerate.

    LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) is the Electric Provider

  6. The only thing I can say is, “oh no”. This is the company that recently was supposed to build a network in Trenton, NJ but now my best guess would be that this Long Island deal will delay e-path’s other build outs for years. I live nearby and use another small wireless Internet access provider for my wifi and was looking forward to having another provider in town.