16 May Shawano to build city-wide Wi-Fi broadband wireless network
The city of Shawano, Wisconsin, plans to install a high-speed wireless network this summer for around $160,000.
The city council approved the network last Wednesday, according to the Shawano Leader.
Workers would install $3,000 radio transmitters at various locations to cover the whole city. The primary purpose behind the plan is to give the police department wireless Internet access, officials said, but the city might also sell network service wholesale to an Internet service provider.
The technology is called Wi-Fi, a contraction of “wireless fidelity.” It promises broadband access speeds at range, though in practice radio interference and walls can lower speeds to a more modest level.
The city of Madison has pursued a similar deal and chose AOL-SkyCable to provide Wi-Fi hotspots at the Dane County Regional Airport and downtown. The vendor will pay a fee for the right to provide service and may charge users.
• Read the story on Madison’s wireless plans.
Wisconsin cities are treading lightly in the controversial arena of publically provided Internet access, which some vendors have lobbied against. In this state Act 278, which became law last July, requires municipalities who want to construct, own or operate a broadband service must conduct a cost-benefit analysis, publish the results and hold a hearing.
Cities where no broadband service is commercially available, and won’t be for at least nine months, may not be subject to the same requirements. But there’s another way out – if the city will not provide service to end users but instead operate a network that commercial providers can use, they may also be exempt from some of Act 278’s requirements.
Meanwhile, cellular providers are moving in as their networks take on more and more data traffic. Verizon’s BroadbandAccess, for instance, will let you connect to the Internet after putting a card into your laptop – as long as you’re willing to pay $80 a month for the service, which recently became available in Madison and Milwaukee and also works in a list of major U.S. cities.