12 hours ago
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Wi-Fi in W-B
From the Times-Leader:
Wireless Internet access allows computer users to access the Internet without connecting to a provider service through cables or telephone cords, essentially providing roaming access to the World Wide Web through the use of radio technologies over the airwaves.
Mayor Tom Leighton's city administrator, J.J. Murphy, unveiled plans at TuesdayÂs city council meeting to pursue both a citywide Wireless Internet plan and expanded telecommunications services in much of the city's downtown district.
"The intent of our plan . . . is to be able to offer our residents, and most importantly our emergency services, the opportunity to work in a wireless Wilkes-Barre," Murphy told council members.
He presented council with a 10-page business plan, detailing the administration's proposal to provide wireless Internet access, otherwise known as Wi-Fi, throughout the entire city limits.
This would be great if you have a laptop and carry it around all the time. I'm sure many businesses and college students would utilize this service. I've noticed that hotels that cater to business traffic promote Wi-Fi access and many airports are offering the service. But there are some hurdles to overcome before this becomes a reality.
Councilman Jim McCarthy was concerned about one portion of the proposal, which would allow the mayor to form a nonprofit corporation, called Wireless Wilkes-Barre. That corporation would own the wireless network and contract for its design, implementation, operation and maintenance.
Murphy said the nonprofit proposal is just one possibility for how the city might operate a wireless network and noted that it was modeled after a similar plan under way in Philadelphia.
"This is a draft. It's not a final proposal. ... One of the scenarios is to follow the Philadelphia model," he said.
I'm note sure that it's a good idea for a municipal government to be forming a corporation to persue what is essentially a private business. Plus there are problems with the Philadelphia model as I found out from Community Wireless:
Pennsylvania is one of the dozen or so states that has enacted a law banning such networks, unless certain requirements are met, such as the permission of the incumbent telco provider. Interestingly, Mayor Tom Leighton is gung-ho on the idea of a city-wide Wi-Fi network, and perhaps righly so, though he may be fighting an uphill battle due to the State Law.
It appears (surprise) that Verizon and Comcast lobbied the state legislature to restrict competition. I think this may be one of those projects that gets lost in the shuffle. I hope it doesn't but the Mayor is in danger of coming down with McGroarity disease. He has done a good job of stabilizing the finances of the city and has taken heat for closing a fire house because W-B doesn't have the money to operate it. The theater project and the new state office building on S Washington St. are progressing. But now he is embarking on a new transportation hub next to Public Square and has announced other projects such as building a new firehouse. A Mayor is a manager and he has to juggle many issues but an old rule to juggling is it doesn't matter how many balls you have in the air, the one that hits the ground will get all the attention.