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Next Wave in TBED Tools: Wireless Neighborhoods

August 29, 2003

While rural regions strive to establish basic high-speed Internet connections, larger cities such as St. Louis, Oklahoma City and Roanoke, Va., are looking to establish free, wireless Internet access across several blocks to encourage economic development. Recent reports show efforts are underway to speed the technology's deployment in each of the metro areas.

In St. Louis, O2Connect is looking to build possibly the largest, free, wireless Internet network in the nation. USA Today recently reported that the city and O2Connect have agreed to offer the service in a 42-square-block area. O2Connect provides wireless high-speed Internet access and data transport to corporate clients using 2.4/5.8 GHz and 900 MHz technologies to deliver 802.11 radio signals. For St. Louis, the small, 3-year-old company already has installed the first of six antennae to transmit the invisible signals and has donated $25,000 worth of equipment.

The Oklahoma City-based 4D Networks, Inc. plans to install portable wireless systems, as well as fixed and mobile ones, throughout Oklahoma and abroad in the near future. The broadband Wireless Internet Service Provider has created individual wireless hotspots at such places as Java Dave's, a coffee house in Oklahoma City, but would like to see fire, police and utilities equipped with mobile wireless access, according to an Associated Press story last month. Twenty fixed wireless systems have been established so far, each creating a "digital footprint" of 9- to 15-square-miles.

And, in Roanoke, local government, technology and economic development officials are pondering what a free wireless Internet network would mean for their city. The city's Market Square, which is marked by three streets, is the main area in question for service, a Roanoke Times story held. The New Century Technology Council, a nonprofit corporation that serves tech-based businesses in a 12-county region of Virginia, has begun accepting proposals for the project and is considering a pilot program of up to a year for evaluation. The public would only have to purchase a wireless card to connect to the network.