Facebook sued over county’s plans for $13m center in Linthicum

A lawsuit says Facebook has violated its contract to provide WiFi to the Anne Arundel County Civic League, which plans to build a $13m community centre

A lawsuit has accused Facebook of violating a contract with the Anne Arundel County Civic League by failing to provide the WiFi and electrical power for a planned $13m community centre in Linthicum.

“Facebook promised to provide WiFi and power for the community center, but their conduct is contrary to their public relations. They can’t outsource their responsibility to the taxpayers,” said Denis Ciavarella Jr, a leader of a group challenging the contract.

The civil suit filed by Ciavarella accuses Facebook of failing to provide the services because the large indoor multi-use area requested by the league is too large for Facebook to safely do so.

The Civic League, which holds programs for the Linthicum-Shipley area, has agreed to allow Facebook to use the building on more than 60 acres of unused land across Route 32 from Arundel Mills mall, at the Westport address 1083 Cromwell Bridge Road.

The group contends the location will attract visitors from other communities such as Pasadena, Pasadena, Annapolis and Pasadena. Facebook has delivered a clear promise: to serve as the corporation’s first and only WiFi and electric company.”

The lawsuit, which names the corporation and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg, did not immediately disclose the cost of damages being sought or their basis.

Last year, the council of the county, which represents roughly 400,000 people, voted to approve the requirement for Facebook to provide wireless access within 90 days. The law was aimed at assisting the “Facebook Generation” – the age group of customers that the social network would attract.

“There’s a real dilemma about the potential of the Facebook generation. We know a lot about their needs and maybe what they can afford, but what about what they can’t afford and what they can’t do?” said Councilman Derek Fink, one of two council members to vote against the law.

Fink said the civic league’s request for wifi was unique and he viewed it as part of the government’s responsibility to provide services.

The suit alleges that although Facebook has promised to install an already-installed lease on the building, it has not done so. The Civic League provides a range of programs such as hands-on robotics workshops, art programs, open knitting meetings and more.

The association has no building in Linthicum and wanted to use Facebook’s space on the parcel to complement other civic programs, such as the Linthicum Farmers Market, which began last week and runs through October.

Facebook has installed a rooftop solar array at the centre, which is about to be built and which would provide electricity to the WiFi and electric power needs, the suit said.

“Under the lease agreement, Facebook promised it would be responsible for meeting [the Civic League’s] operational and physical needs for the first 15 years and only after that time the county would provide services. However, no solar arrays have been installed.”

The Civic League said in a statement that it welcomes the support of outside organizations like the Liberty Community Foundation, which has been helping raise funds for the new building.

“If a partnership between the Civic League and an organization like Liberty Community Foundation was able to help accelerate fundraising, we would welcome that opportunity,” the statement said.

A Facebook spokesman said the company did not comment on pending litigation, but said it fully supports the expansion of arts, technology and recreation programming in Anne Arundel County.

“We have paid an initial deposit of $20,000 to the Civic League, and continue to work with the association to design and build this new community space for all Arundel County families.”

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