Tempe is trying to take ownership of the nearly dead citywide wireless Internet service, saying the network's owner has abandoned it.
Texas-based Gobility Inc. cut the link to a key server Dec. 28, leaving an unknown number of its small customer base without service. At that time, the company also pulled the plug on its customer service phone line and Web site.
And Tempe says some parts of the city don't have service because nobody is fixing transmitters that have stopped working.
This amounts to abandonment, the city told Gobility in a letter sent late last week.
Even the city hasn't been able to talk to the owner for about two months, said Dave Heck, Tempe's chief information officer.
"They don't return phone calls," Heck said.
Tempe told the company it will assume ownership of the network if service isn't back by Feb. 10. The ownership would switch March 28, and Tempe would presumably find another operator to take it over.
The network's future - and even its current status - are murky.
California-based Telescape has been trying to buy the company, saying it hoped to use the Tempe system to expand across the Valley. The company has 130,000 customers on its other networks.
But when Gobility pulled the plug, it became more difficult and costly to rebuild the system, a Telescape spokesman has said. Though a deal was supposed to be made a month ago, nothing has happened, Heck said.
"I haven't heard that they've pulled out of the negotiations, but it shouldn't have taken this long if everything went smoothly," Heck said.
A Telescape executive did not return a phone call for comment on Tuesday.
Tempe's service was touted as a major innovation when it was launched three years ago, but has generated more disappointment than enthusiasm since then. Many homeowners couldn't pick up the signal in their homes or required special devices to boost it within their homes.
Customer service complaints were common, and public awareness has been low because of scant marketing.
But a Telescape executive said that the system's technology is solid and that it could attract 10,000 subscribers with better customer service and marketing.
Heck figures that even if the Telescape purchase falls through, another company will want to own the system.
"The assets are too valuable to just let it sit out there," Heck said. "Somebody's going to pick it up."