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8/16/2006
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CIO Behind Controversial Philadelphia Wi-Fi Project Leaves Job

Dianah Neff is joining a consulting firm to help spread her knowledge about municipal Wi-Fi around the globe.

Dianah Neff, the powerhouse behind the biggest and most controversial city-wide wireless project in the United States, left her post as chief information officer of Philadelphia this week to work for a firm specializing in management and technology consulting services for municipal governments.

Neff says it's an opportunity she couldn't miss.

Neff previously chaired Philadelphia's wireless committee, which struck a deal to have EarthLink build a 135-square-mile wireless network to cover the city. This would make Philadelphia the largest U.S. city to launch such a network for public and commercial use, with some of the cheapest price points: About $10 a month for low-income residents and no more than $20 a month for small businesses and other residents.

To make it happen, Neff pulled off a massive lobbying effort to counter House Bill 30 in the Pennsylvania Legislature, which would prohibit municipal governments from deploying commercial broadband services.

With the worst behind her, Neff can now focus on her own career. By taking up the role of senior partner at Civitium, the consulting firm, she will get involved in municipal projects worldwide--something she's been meaning to do. "I'm passionate about what municipal wireless can do for communities and now is the time for me to go do international work in the field that I very much believe in," says Neff. Starting next month, Neff will lead Civitium's international practice, working with clients in Europe, Africa, Australia, and South America to help get municipal Wi-Fi projects off the ground. She'll also work with the firm's U.S. clients, advising them on strategy, policy, and communications planning matters.

Neff says her move won't affect the wireless efforts in Philadelphia. The project is well on its way and is scheduled for completion by the third quarter of next year. Last week, EarthLink began installing Wi-Fi equipment that will initially cover 15 square miles of the city. "It's proof-of-concept for now to make sure everything works," says Neff.

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