Internet service provider EarthLink yesterday announced that it was selected to develop and implement a Wi-Fi network throughout Philadelphia.

Wireless Philadelphia, a nonprofit group named by Philadelphia’s mayor to spearhead the project, chose EarthLink over a team lead by Hewlitt-Packard, according to media reports. A contract is expected to be signed during the next two months that details the terms by which Earthlink will finance, build and manage the wireless network.

"In selecting EarthLink, Wireless Philadelphia moves one step closer to fulfilling its charter to strengthen the City's economy and transform Philadelphia's neighborhoods by providing high-speed, low-cost wireless access throughout the City," Wireless Philadelphia Acting Board Chair Dianah Neff said in a prepared statement. "The EarthLink partnership is an unprecedented public/private partnership to provide wireless broadband access, as well as new and exciting future products in Philadelphia."

Under the proposal, no city or taxpayer dollars will be used to fund the project, which is expected to generate revenue-sharing fees for Wireless Philadelphia. EarthLink will construct a 15-square-mile network for initial testing before building out the rest of the network. The network is scheduled to be fully operational by the fourth quarter of next year.

EarthLink is expected to charge about $20 per month for subscribers to access the network, with certain lower-income Philadelphia residents being charged $10 per month as part of Wireless Philadelphia’s “digital inclusion” program.

EarthLink President and CEO Garry Betty called the project “an important milestone” in broadband deployment in the U.S.

"It provides a competitive alternative to high-speed Internet offerings and gives many Internet users the ability to stay connected, no matter where they are in the city,” Betty said in a prepared statement.