Power shifts at Wireless Philadelphia: Neff and Pew are out, Goldman in

The Philadelphia wireless project is shifting gears. As the network takes shape, the founders are out.

Philadelphia Chief Information Officer Dianah Neff, credited with conceiving the project, is reportedly about to resign. The Inquirer paints her legacy as one tainted by scandal: an aide whom she kept on the payroll even though he was ineligible for city employment; and an $18 million computerized billing system that doesn’t work.

My friend and colleague Becca Vargo Dagget from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance pointed out how absurd that the city would risk $18 million on the billing system but be unwilling to risk the same amount to own a wireless broadband network.

Check out Becca’s defense of municipally-owned wireless networks in this back-and-forth on the Muniwireless blog. (ILSR is in Minneapolis, by the way, where the next Muniwireless Conference will be October 23.) The post is about Boston’s new proposal, which is similar to the original idea in Philly: having a non-profit pay for, but not operate the network.

Anyway, most people seem to think Neff is getting out while the getting-out’s good and will soon be making even more than her $193,000 salary in the private sector. Another possibille motivation is her bad health, which kept her away from the City Council hearings on the network.

In related news, Wireless Philadelphia recently announced the hiring of a new CEO. Greg Goldman replaces interim CEO Derek Pew who negotiated the contract with Earthlink.

Goldman most recently worked for a real estate firm, but formerly ran a feed-the-hungry type non-profit and worked at the Philadelphia Foundation. He sounds like a non-profiteer who will focus on fundraising. According to the job description, he’ll be making about $175,000 a year.

See the Wireless Philadelphia press release [pdf] on Goldman’s hire. It will be interesting to see if they post any other job announcements.

There will be a new CIO, though it will probably be an internal hire. Earthlink is starting to build the physical structure of the network. Wireless Philadelphia will be seeking community partners, beginning to shape it’s digital inclusion programs. If you want to play a role in defining how those things are going to work, now is the time to speak up.
Read more of my articles on wireless.

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