Friday, August 31, 2007

Oakland Wireless and Wireless Washtenaw!

Oakland, Washtenaw wireless systems coming soon

Posted on 8/30/2007 8:45:39 AM

Municipal wireless projects in Oakland and Washtenaw counties should be complete in 2008 and will offer considerable economic development benefits, officials of the two counties told a Great Lakes IT Report - WWJ Newsradio 950 breakfast Thursday.

The systems, Wireless Oakland and Wireless Washtenaw, will offer particular advantages for rural areas in western Washtenaw and northern Oakland counties, which are currently limited to broadband.

"West of Zeeb Road, we don't have access" to broadband, Washtenaw County deputy county executive and CIO David Beehan said during the event. He said business owners in western Washtenaw are telling the county, "We only have dial-up, and it's killing us."

Beehan and Phil Bertolini, Oakland County deputy executive and CIO, outlined their respective counties' progress toward free wireless Web access to a crowd of about 100 at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield.

Bertolini said the inspiration for the project came from a 2004 visit by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson to Dubai, which has universal Web access.

"Brooks said there's four square miles of Dubai, there's 910 square miles of Oakland County -- make it so," Bertolini said.

Both counties' projects involve no government investment or ownership. Instead, the counties are making government assets such as power poles and radio towers available for free to a private sector partner that provides the actual service. A basic level of service -- 128 kilobits per second, about twice as fast as dial-up -- is provided free, with higher speeds available at a price. The provider also gets advertising revenue from a portal start page that all users begin at.

In Oakland County, those upsell rates and prices range from $19.95 a month for 512 kilobits per second download speed to $39.95 a month for 1.5 megabits per second.

Berolini said Wireless Oakland's Phase I has covered 18.5 square miles, an area comprised of 35,000 households and businesses. So far, 11,000 of them have signed up -- far exceeding the county's initial projection of a 5 percent signup rate. Of the 11,000, about 200 are paying for higher speeds, Bertolini added.

Bertolini said Wireless Oakland is currently developing its rollout schedule for the rest of the county, which should be complete by the end of 2008.

Roughly the same schedule is in effect for Washtenaw County, which has a 15-square-mile pilot system operating in Saline, Manchester and downtown Ann Arbor. In Washtenaw, though, only 300 have signed up.

Both counties said government is one of the "anchor tenants" of the system and will use it extensively.

And Bertolini said the system is already paying off in terms of economic development.

"We already have companies contacting Oakland County and saying that part of the reason we are looking to locate in Oakland County is that the county is building a wireless network across 910 square miles," Bertolini said.

Behen said Washtenaw County got its inspiration not from Dubai, but from the fact that the private sector simply doesn't seem interested in providing broadband to rural areas.

"I'm not going to argue with the private sector," Behen said. "But in my position as deputy county administrator and CIO, I have to think a little bigger, and think about the quality of life for those areas."

Both plans also include programs to bridge the digital divide, once the wireless network is up and running. The counties will be providing free or low-cost computers and training for low-income residents.

Both speakers also said they're watching the development of WiMax technology carefully, but that it's still years away from widespread use. Oakland County is already using WiMax for backhaul, Bertolini said.

1 comment:

James said...


Thanks to those whom were able to attend. Although we learned little that we didn't already know......WE were able to get Phil Bertolini to agree to support OUR Pontiac WHRC "Pilot" Project (begin with the end in mind).

More to come.....