Houston Citywide WiFi Network

The City of Houston and Houston Mayor Bill White are proposing a citywide wireless Internet network that would allow people to access the Internet from anywhere in the city. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell has more.

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The proposed citywide "Wi-Fi" network will be financed and built by a private company, with no city money. Plans call for it to be made available to commercial Internet service providers who will sell the service to the public at competitive rates. Mayor White says it will make Internet access affordable for more people.

"That's the goal, and for some people who may be in some categories of having special needs, or economic impediments, such as students, public libraries, certain public parks it may be for free. Others, it would be at a rate that is very competitive with existing commercial services."

The Mayor is getting some help in promoting the project from Michael Garfield, the self-named High Tech Texan, who promotes computers and high tech gadgets on his website and on the radio. Garfield says making Wi-Fi available everywhere in the city will be a massive job, because it will require blanketing the city with nearly 20,000 Wi-Fi broadcast antennas.

"Which means every three hundred to four hundred feet, on top of light poles and on top of buildings, there's gonna be an access point where a wireless broadband network is gonna be needed to sit on top of those structures and send out a wireless signal. And so just the infrastructure alone of setting up physically those locations is indeed a big task."

The city will help by letting the company install its antennas on city-owned buildings and light poles at no cost. The mayor should announce the winning bid for the contract soon, and it should take about two years to complete. Garfield says when it's up and running it'll be the largest Wi-Fi network in the country. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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