Beyond the well-known high tech regions, communities throughout the U.S. are implementing ways to provide their citizens with affordable, high-speed Internet services.
Since 1999, the Metropolitan Planning Council has been
working with the City of Chicago on the development of
— a high performance telecommunications network that will connect 2,000
government locations and provide access on an open network to businesses, to
in Chicago’s neighborhoods. While initially envisioned as a fiber build-out network,
CivicNet will likely include high-speed access both through fiber lines
and wireless services. The contract, worth
up to $30 million-a-year for ten years, is unique in combining the purchasing power of
several government agencies, as well as providing access for private users.
also advised efforts in other parts of the region —
especially the south suburbs — in ways to accelerate broadband services to
anchor economic development.
as the railway and highway systems fueled growth in the past, broadband is
increasingly a requirement for nearly all types of businesses — not just high
a part of MPC's ongoing goal of informing communities in northeastern Illinois of best practices, MPC
assessed efforts across the
Looking beyond well known high-tech regions, this article focuses on a regional effort
in Utah, Long Beach, Calif. and Tallahassee, Fla.
The Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency — UTOPIA
is an agency formed from
17 Utah communities with the purpose of “… accelerating
economic development and quality of life … by deploying a
publicly owned, advanced telecommunications network over the last mile to
all homes and businesses within member communities.” The
17 communities create a coverage area
that encompasses approximately 75 percentof the state’s population. Significant expansion
is expected, with new communities
expressing interest in becoming UTOPIA members. The Utah
Interlocal Cooperation Act allows for
Utah communities to form and enter into Interlocal agreements to combine and
perform governmental services they would have traditionally performed individually.
is capable of delivering speeds between 100 mbps and 1,000
Operating as an Open
Service Provider Network, UTOPIA provides wholesale transport services with each
provider managing its own customer relationships.
UTOPIA provides “equal and universal access to advanced telecommunications
services for all residents and businesses.”The
availability of high-speed telecommunications
services has been determined to have an impact on housing and business location
to existing businesses to stay in connected partner communities, while
attracting new businesses to the area. The network
gives consumers more choices: "better
products, lower prices and access to enhanced educational and healthcare
The Long Beach Hot Zone
a wireless standard
called Wireless Fidelity (WI-FI), the Long Beach Development Bureau is providing
free, outdoor, high-speed wireless Internet access to its downtown residents and
visitors. Through this standard, anyone with a laptop computer equipped with
a standard wireless network interface card (WNIC) in the downtown area can access the Internet
at no cost. The user accesses the system by simply opening her Internet
browser within reception range.
Beach Pine Avenue Hot Zone
portal site is automatically
loaded. The coverage area is currently limited to the Pine Avenue area where
the first Hot Zone went live in January of 2003.
The city plans to extend the network to
the convention center, marina area and the Long Beach airport.
City planners see The Long Beach Hot
Zone project as a marketing tool to attract new businesses and
was once viewed by industry leaders as a simple grassroots movement that would
never gain wide acceptance in the world of true Wide Area Networking.
Bolstering their arguments were the facts that the technology itself had limited
range ability and could be implemented with cheap, household equipment (empty Pringles
cans have been used to boost reception). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
does not regulate the 2.4 ghz wavelength that WI-FI operates in. This leaves the
technology wide open for scrutiny from security analysts who believe the value of any network can only
be measured by the integrity of its data delivery and the ability to secure
it from unwanted attack. Without adequate security, WI-FI appeared to be a
flash-in-the-pan technology. Adding criticism are the issues of signal interference from current generation
cordless and cellular phones and microwave ovens in close proximity to wireless
equipment (access points, routers and WNICS). But despite these concerns, WI-FI continues
to get both national and international attention as it has been reported to
be supporting viable networks in more than 40 U.S. cities and many more abroad.
Other wireless protocols in the WI-FI family such as 802.11g and
802.11a operate in wavelengths other than the most popular 2.4 ghz
range. The different protocols provide a range of security and speed of data
piggyback off of high-speed Internet connections like T-1
lines, DSL or cable modems, where the signal is originated. Wireless
networks are basically comprised of three components — routers, access points and
client devices. The components communicate with each other
via radio frequency transmissions, eliminating the need for cabling. Compatible communication devices
allow the network to come alive. Often a technician is not needed, making
deployment easy for consumers and small businesses. With good equipment and placement, the
network’s range can be easily extended anywhere from 30 feet to 4 miles, making
WI-FI as a last mile alternative a reality.
Tallahassee’s Digital Canopy
The red dots indicate access points providing a 12
block "canopy" of coverage where anyone in range with proper equipment
can surf the Internet for free.
Tallahassee, Florida partnered with private
vendors, universities and information technology companies in a community-based
to stimulate the development of wireless technology while promoting the use
of applications that benefit the local economy. Tallahassee considered expanding
the Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) to address three key objectives: improving
the mobility and efficiency of City employees through mobile workforce
functionality;solving the challenge of the Digital Divide by building a "smart community";
and generating revenues through wholesale provision of services to local service
Tallahassee intends to duplicate the
success of the downtown deployment in other areas based on results from studies
conducted to determine the feasibility of expansion.
The results were presented to the City
commission in November 2002 and indicate that the wireless network “could
provide enhanced productivity to City work crews” and may also provide economic
stimulus to the community by providing wireless broadband access for resale by
local Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Digital Canopy consists of several access points placed
strategically throughout a 12-block area in downtown Tallahassee. The access
points are connected through fiber optic cables to a router and switch in City
Hall that provides the physical Internet connection. Operational since February
2002, the free service has been well received by users. The plan is to expand
the coverage so that Digital Canopy could provide wireless access throughout
most of the city.
This article drew from the following sources: