Details of the 10-year contract were reported Monday by city officials. EarthLink will build and maintain the network, but the city's Wireless Philadelphia unit will have some say in its operation.
Wireless Philadelphia will charge a $9 monthly wholesale fee to ISPs providing service to end users, who would likely be charged less than $20 a month for the service. A 15-square-mile area in the city will first be fitted with the technology to test its feasibility.
Although the latest development clears important hurdles, the contract will go to Philadelphia's City Council for approval. City officials said they hope the citywide network can be up and running in the spring of 2007.
The project has been opposed by cable and telephone providers, which currently provide broadband service in the city. After the Philadelphia project was launched, the state of Pennsylvania approved legislation that seeks to block public involvement in projects similar to the Philadelphia effort.