From the point of view of a certified non-techie, wireless internet connectivity has had an interesting run in the public realm. For cities, there didn’t seem to be much incubation time and just as soon as the technology became available cities rushed to beat each other to announce that they were the next hot spot thanks to their nice cozy wireless blanket to snuggle up in. Kent too. We made calls, held meetings, and talked to the geek squads in preparation for jumping aboard that WiFi train. Yet, in just a matter of a couple of years the concept has seemed to have jumped off the top of the what’s hot list to the top of the what’s not list. With a trajectory that seems to resemble the flight of Icarus, the wax on the wings of all the promises of WiFi has melted a bit so I’m hoping that the recent announcements by Dublin Ohio and Gahanna Ohio to be the first cities in Ohio to pursue citywide WifFi suggest that maybe things are changing again.
The city councils in Dublin and Gahanna both unanimously approved contracts Monday with DHB Networks of Dublin to build wireless networks.
Each network could be finished by the first quarter of 2009, said Chris Harris, president of DHB Networks.
Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, relies on radio transmitters rather than cable or phone lines to connect computers to the Internet. The antennas and transmitters would be located along city streets.
Wireless networks have been built in other communities across the country, and some have suffered financial failure.
There is a difference, though, with the business model that DHB Networks has set up with Dublin and Gahanna, said Gregory Dunn, a lawyer who specializes in telecommunications and technology issues and who worked as a consultant for Gahanna.
In Philadelphia and San Francisco, companies attempted to build a wireless network that offered free service with the hope of recovering costs through advertising, Dunn said. The idea failed.
In Dublin and Gahanna, the city governments are considered the “anchor tenants” that will use the wireless networks covering their cities, Dunn said.
Dublin’s contract calls for a $1.13 million investment to expand the network to 24 square miles. In 2006, the suburb paid $440,000 to build a 4-square-mile area of wireless coverage around Rt. 161, said Dana McDaniel, director of economic development.
Gahanna is spending $1.35 million for a network to cover the city’s 11.42 square miles.
DHB Networks has invested $1 million in Dublin and would spend $1.5 million more. The company’s Gahanna investment would be $1.5 million to $2 million during the next 18 months, Harris said.
Residents in both communities would be able to subscribe for $24.95 per month.
Minneapolis is using a similar model in which US Internet built a network to cover the city’s 60 square miles. Minneapolis’ success helped convince Gahanna leaders, Councilman Tom Kneeland said.
In Dublin, the wireless network was used during the city’s Irish Festival to scan credit cards and tickets. McDaniel said the city envisions the police and fire departments would be able to use the network when the whole city is covered.
Gahanna is looking at using its network for water-meter reading and hooking up video cameras in the parks, Kneeland said.
New Albany considered joining Gahanna’s venture. But Village Administrator Joseph Stefanov said the village wouldn’t benefit enough to justify the cost.