Tampa City Council discusses making city "WI-FI'

06/14/07 Mitch E. Perry
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The Tampa City Council today supported a motion to look at providing wireless internet access to certain parts of Tampa.

The request is a scaled down version of providing free Wi-Fi to the entire city, which is what the city’s director of technology and innovation, James Buckner, had been investigating

A municipal WI-FI network works through low power radio transceivers called ‘access points’ or ‘hotspots’, that can be hung from utility poles or installed all over a city. They link a central Internet service provider with personal computers that are equipped with wireless network adapters.

Director of Technology James Buckner he was looking at various vendors interested in working with the City - but wasn’t ready to go ahead and sign anything just yet

But Councilman John Dingfelder, who initiated the request for more information about bringing free Internet access to the City, said there might have been a breakdown in communications with the Technology Department. He said he wanted to implement the service only in certain parts of Tampa

Technology Director Buckner said that in fact, the Tampa Downtown Partnership has been looking at providing various ‘hot spots’ downtown

Councilwoman Linda Saul Sena said it was important for the City to provide WI-FI as a service

But City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern cautioned the City not to spend too many resources for a potentially outdated product.

Citizen Terry Neal said that he also believes that working other cities are having troubles with such WI-FI access.

Charlie Guy is the Executive Director for the BrightZone Institute, described as a nonprofit dedicated to educational technology research and development. He discussed the Digital Divide – the divide that exists with many Black and Latino’s NOT currently hooked up to the Internet.

He said municipal WI-FI should not be approached as a distribution of a service like water or public safety. He said capital markets believe that what Earthlink is doing will actually work. And Guy said he believes that through grants from the federal government, the City should introduce wi-fi into the predomaninantly black East Tampa area.

The City asked that Guy write up a proposal to all Council Members. They also voted to get an update on looking at providing WIFI in only selected parts of the city in 3 months .

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