24 Mar Milwaukee Wi-Fi provider ready to start building network
Milwaukee, Wis. — Installation work on Milwaukee’s Wi-Fi network could begin in a matter of weeks, representatives of the City of Milwaukee and Midwest Fiber Networks said Thursday.
The company is working out final contractual details with the city, which last month selected Midwest Fiber to build and maintain a citywide wireless data network. As soon as the ink is dry on the agreements, “equipment will be mounted on poles almost immediately,” according to Donna Raffaelli, one of three principal owners of Midwest Fiber. “Our intention is to bring technology here that is well planned out and upgradable.”
The network, which will require an estimated 3,000 to 3,200 antennas citywide, is expected to take 18 months to complete. Midwest Fiber plans to invest between $20 and $25 million in the network, which will be built at no cost to city taxpayers. The monthly cost to subscribers will be approximately $20.
As part of the city’s effort to bridge the “digital divide,” it will include a “walled garden” of free access to selected sites, including those disseminating information about public services.
Raffaelli appeared at a luncheon of the Milwaukee Interactive Marketing Association with fellow owner Nik Ivancevic and the city’s chief technology officer, Randy Gschwind. The city, which did not seek bids through a request for proposals, will have Midwest Fiber build the infrastructure and lease “air time” to Internet service providers.
Rather than focus on different flavors of Wi-Fi, Gschwind said the key is to build a scalable, upgradable network that responds to changing technology. “Midwest Fiber will have to upgrade the system every 18 months,” he said, “just to keep up with the changes.”