Plan involves placing transmitters on lampposts
Wednesday, September 1, 2004 Posted: 9:36 AM EDT (1336 GMT)
Vince Veneziani uses a wireless connection to access the internet in
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AP) -- For about $10 million, city
officials believe they can turn all 135 square miles of Philadelphia
into the world's largest wireless Internet hot spot.
The ambitious plan, now in the works, would involve placing hundreds,
or maybe thousands of small transmitters around the city -- probably
atop lampposts. Each would be capable of communicating with the
wireless networking cards that now come standard with many computers.
Once complete, the network would deliver broadband Internet almost
anywhere radio waves can travel -- including poor neighborhoods where
high-speed Internet access is now rare.
And the city would likely offer the service either for free, or at
costs far lower than the $35 to $60 a month charged by commercial
providers, said the city's chief information officer, Dianah Neff.
"If you're out on your front porch with a laptop, you could dial in,
register at no charge, and be able to access a high speed connection,"
Neff said. "It's a technology whose time is here."
If the plan becomes a reality, Philadelphia could leap to the forefront
of a growing number of cities that have contemplated offering wireless
Internet service to residents, workers and guests.
Chaska, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, began offering citywide
wireless Internet access this year for $16 a month. The signal covers
about 13 square miles.
Corpus Christi, Texas, has been experimenting with a system covering 20
square miles that would initially be used only by government employees.
Over the past year, Cleveland has added some 4,000 wireless
transmitters in its University Circle, Midtown and Lakefront districts.
The service is free, and available to anyone who passes through the
"We like to say it should be like the air you breathe -- free and
available everywhere," said Lev Gonick, chief information officer at
Case Western Reserve University, which is spearheading the project and
paying for a chunk of it. "We look at this like PBS or NPR. It should
be a public resource."
In New York, city officials are negotiating to sell wireless carriers
space on 18,000 lampposts for as much as $21.6 million annually.
T-Mobile USA Inc., Nextel Partners Inc., IDT Corp. and three other
wireless carriers want the equipment to increase their networks'
Wireless technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years
and become drastically less expensive.
The new "wireless mesh" technology under consideration in Philadelphia
has made it possible to expand those similar networks over entire
neighborhoods, with the help of relatively cheap antennas.
Neff estimated it would cost about $10 million to pay for the initial
infrastructure for the system, plus $1.5 million a year to maintain.
Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, a technology buff who carries a
wireless handheld computer everywhere he goes, appointed a 14-member
committee last week to work out the specifics of his city's plan,
including any fees, or restrictions on its use.
Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.