ATLANTA – EarthLink is buying the wireless fidelity (WiFi) network built by the city of Corpus Christi network and will begin charging for access, the Internet Service Provider and city announced on Wednesday.

Corpus Christi had offered high-speed wireless net access at no charge.

EarthLink, which is in the process of deploying WiFi networks at several cities across the country, this time bought an established network. The Corpus Christi network covers 147 square miles.

According to the Caller-Times newspaper in Corpus Christi, EarthLink will pay some $5.5 million for the network plus another $340,000 in fees during the first year of service. The city is expecting to receive $300,000 or more each year in annual revenues as part of a 10-year agreement.

EarthLink, which is based in Atlanta, will charge $20 a month for access after a 30-day free trial. The ISP will also be responsible for maintenance and upgrades to the network.

"We are pleased to have this opportunity to partner with EarthLink Municipal Networks," said George Noe, the Corpus Christi city manager. "The EMN relationship will enable us to provide the Corpus Christi community with competitive commercial Internet services, give ISPs an equal opportunity to participate, and ensure a return on the City’s current and ongoing network investment."

EarthLink has said it would permit competitors to utilize WiFi networks it operates.