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Web addicts, take heart: A public-private effort is moving toward making downtown Madison one giant wi-fi hotspot.AOL-SkyCable
has been chosen to enter negotiations for the right to provide a wireless Internet service for the general public. The "Wireless Wisconsin" service would create a publicly accessible wireless fidelity (wi-fi) network covering Madison and the Dane County Regional Airport. The project also has provisions for future expansion to other communities. AOL-SkyCable will now negotiate with the city, county and state to develop specific contract language. If negotiations are not successful, another vendor will be chosen.
"Public wireless Internet access in Madison is one step closer to becoming a reality," said Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. "This initiative continues the city's tradition of being at the leading edge of emerging technologies and is a major step forward for my Healthy City initiative."
"From the county's perspective, our number-one priority was getting the airport connected," said Lesley Sillaman, a spokesperson for County Executive Kathleen Falk. "We want to do our best at making it convenient for travelers to stay connected while they're out there. From our perspective that is a huge part of it."
"We're happy to know that it will go on to include downtown Madison and hopefully the rest of Madison and other communities extending from there," Sillaman said. "It helps everywhere, from business travelers to government in Madison to folks at UW to students. There's demand within all those communities to stay connected throughout day and not be tied to offices anymore. That's definitely a huge part of it for us. It was a priority to not use taxpayer money, and we're happy to do this without taxpayer expense."
AOL-SkyCable was one of three vendors that bid for Wireless Wisconsin. The proposals were evaluated by a joint review team representing the city of Madison, Dane County and state. No taxpayer dollars will be used to build or operate the service. Access to various local Web sites would be free, while full access to the Internet would come a daily, monthly or long-term fee.
"From the minute people land at the Dane County Regional Airport, and throughout their travels in the area, people will have excellent wireless Internet service," Falk said in a release. "This service will open up many fabulous opportunities from public safety to business communications, as well as helping residents and travelers stay connected."
Representatives of SkyCable and the state Department of Administration were unavailable for comment on Monday.