Augusta Bucks Trend, Plans WiFi Rollout

wireless WiFi

Using a grant from the state of Georgia, the city will be spending more than $500,000 to build and deploy the WiFi network over a highly populated area. With most of the deployment costs covered, the city is only looking for an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to operate, market and maintain the network.

"We have reviewed wireless RFP's from all over the country," said Gary Hewett, Augusta's assistant director of information technology, in a statement. "We believe that our 'build it and they will come' approach is a model that will work."

However, other cities, such as Philadelphia, have built it and "they" have not come. The city has struggled for four years to get a municipal Internet network up and running. The project has been reportedly beset by delays and spotty service. To add insult to injury, the ISP that built it for free, EarthLink, is getting out of the municipal wireless business in other cities, causing Philadelphians to wonder how long their service will last before it's even finished. EarthLink had planned to profit by selling subscriptions to the network.

In addition, at least one city, Sebastopol, Calif., has decided to forego WiFi for the masses, citing health issues. That city rescinded an agreement it signed in November with, noting concerns over "electromagnetic hypersensitivity."

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Under Augusta's current plan, the majority of the capital cost for the network will be covered by the grant money. The chosen ISP will operate the network under a revenue share plan with the city. Augusta plans to release its Request for Proposal (RFP) within the next few weeks.