22 Sep Fitchburg tech campus offers free wireless access
FITCHBURG, Wis. — Fitchburg Center, a green mixed-use development, is now home to a free wireless hotspot.
A Wi-Fi antenna, which nearby Berbee Information Systems put up, provides wireless access to about 16 acres at the center of the business park, a restored prairie with trails and a large pavilion.
Besides Berbee, some of the companies in the immediate area are Promega Corporation, Bruker AXS, and Locus, Inc.
“We’ve got sort of a high-tech community out here … there’s clearly a benefit for our staff members,” said Paul Shain, president of Berbee, who sees the hotspot as an example of a trend toward wireless connectivity. “We’re looking forward to their ability to go out there and work in small teams.”
He said Berbee worked with Fitchburg Center and the city to offer public wireless.
“We wanted to make it someting that was easy for people to use, so it’s similar to something you would find at an airport kiosk,” said Dan Geisler, a Berbee network engineer.
The antenna is omnidirectional and uses 801.11g, a recent high-speed wireless networking standard. If only high-speed clients are connected, they will get bandwidth of approximately 4-5 megabytes per second, Geisler said, while older 801.11b clients could get around 750 kilobytes per second or less.
Despite offering an open, unencrypted connection, he said, Berbee has installed security features such as a measure that prevents connected computers from accessing each other directly and a firewall between the network and the public Internet.
The plan has been in discussion at least since this May, when the Agora Pavilion opened. The centrally located pavilion will probably be one of the places where wireless users congregate.
Geisler said signal strength was generally good throughout the area, but would be evaluated after some time has passed.
“At some point in the future we may decide we need to add some antennas,” he said, particularly directional antennas with greater signal strength than the omnidirectional one that has been installed.
The hotspot has excited city officals, some of whom have predicted it will help draw businesses such as cafés to the area. The city plans to develop some of the open land near the Agora Paviliion, administrators said at the May opening.
“We in Fitchburg are fortunate to have so much technology savvy in our community,” Fitchburg Mayor Tom Clauder said in a statement. “The expertise and cooperative spirit of Fitchburg Center and Berbee Information Networks established the Wi-Fi system in our city. This wireless Hot Spot will be a tremendous asset as we seek to attract additional high-tech companies to Fitchburg.”
Milwaukee has wireless hotspots in its Pere Marquette Park and Cathedral square, and Philadelphia’s mayor is looking into a city-wide network.
Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has also said he would like Madison to be one of the first cities to build public wireless hotspots at significant downtown locations as well as bus stations and airports.
Jason is WTN’s associate editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.