Milwaukee announces citywide wireless initiative

Milwaukee announces citywide wireless initiative

MILWAUKEE — Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee officials on Wednesday announced plans to launch the Milwaukee Wireless Initiative to provide a citywide wireless network accessible to all residents.
The Milwaukee Wireless Initiative positions Milwaukee to become the first fully wireless large city in America, built at no cost to the city and taxpayers, according to the Barrett’s office.
“This initiative constitutes a multi-million dollar private investment, and I am committed to make the Milwaukee Wireless Initiative a reality,” said Barrett. “It will create tremendous growth for a locally owned company and will open the door to new jobs, job training and other social and educational opportunities.”
Philadephia last year announced a similar initiative — “Wireless Philadelphia.” Earlier this month, Philadelphia announced the selection of Atlanta-based Earthlink to develop the infrastructure for a 135-mile radius of wireless. Residents there would pay about $20 per month for the service, with a discount for low-income residents.
Other cities seeking wireless networks are San Francisco, Houston, Portland, Ore., Minneapolis, and Sacramento, Calif.
In Wisconsin, efforts to institute a wireless network for Madison are on hold. (Click here for WTN coverage of that situation.) Earlier this year, Shawano, Wis., city officials announced plans to provide citywide wireless services for that northeastern Wisconsin community through its municipal utility. (Click here for a WTN report on that project.)
Barrett called the Milwaukee Wireless Initiative “a big step toward bridging the digital divide,” and lauded the opportunities to provide Internet access to low income residents.
Barrett has had discussions with Midwest Fiber Networks, a Milwaukee-based company proposing to build the network in partnership with other high-profile Internet providers. The company was founded four years ago by the owners of Cablecom, a cable-laying contractor with a focus on communications networks, including Milwaukee County and Waukesha County broadband networks supported by underground cable.
The city must negotiate an agreement with the company for permitting, access to conduit, access to city facilities for wireless equipment, and other factors such as service benefits and revenue generating measures.
Midwest Fiber Networks would build and maintain the infrastructure and then work with Internet service providers to actually provide the wireless access.
Developing the infrastructure is expected to cost $20 million or more. Midwest would generate revenue by selling air time to the Internet service providers, which in turn would charge subscribers.
“Midwest Fiber Network’s goal is to work with Mayor Barrett and the City Council to make Milwaukee the No. 1 wireless city in America and to set the standard for wireless accessibility,” said Nik Ivancevic, a partner in Midwest Fiber Networks.
The Milwaukee Wireless Initiative reflects a significant change from hotspots, where WiFi access is available to very limited areas. The city has numerous hot spots, including some in public venues, such as parks. The Milwaukee Wireless Initiative would provide Internet connectivity anywhere, anytime, the mayor’s office said. In addition, it would guarantee open access to other service providers.
The dominant Internet access providers in Milwaukee currently are Time Warner Cable and SBC.