Guest speedway Posted July 15 Report Share Posted July 15 Posted on Sat, Jul. 15, 2006 MIAMI-DADE COUNTYDade WiFi plan aims to bridge digital divide, bring Net to allMiami-Dade officials are considering providing Internet access across the county, as more governments believe wireless service is a utility.BY JOSEPH TARTAKOFFjtartakoff@MiamiHerald.comMiami-Dade officials want to provide affordable wireless Internet access across the entire county. But it's an expensive and untested technology, an expert warned Friday.At the first meeting to discuss the plan, Mayor Carlos Alvarez -- who unveiled the initiative in February -- said it could ''erase'' the ''digital divide'' in the area. School Board Member Ana Rivas Logan took Alvarez's words one step further.''This will definitely help us to close the achievement gap,'' she said.But there's a gap between the expectations of elected officials and the ability of industry to deliver on them, said Daniel Aghion, the executive director of the Wireless Internet Institute in Boston.Increasingly, governments believe wireless Internet is a utility, just like electricity, and Miami-Dade is among a ''few hundred'' across the nation that are looking into providing it. But Aghion said few cities have actually deployed the networks and ``a lot of . . . experiments will probably not go as planned.''Wireless technology allows computer users to connect to the Internet without the need of a phone line or a cable connection. For WiFi to work, the computer must have a wireless card -- common on laptops but less so on desktops -- and be within range of an access point.Aghion said it's not profitable for municipalities to provide low-cost wireless. Therefore, the county should focus first on saving money by using it to boost employee productivity. A secondary benefit, he said, could be public access.That did not sit well with Logan, who said she teaches computer classes in South Florida where some students don't know how to turn on a computer.When William Talbert, the committee's chairman and president of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, asked for a cost estimate for constructing the network across the county's 2,000 square miles, Aghion hesitated.''I'm not sure you'd want to,'' he said.Aghion said it could cost more than $100,000 per square mile just to set up the network. That means a system could cost upwards of $200 million in the county.However, Ira Feuer, a special assistant to the mayor, said afterward it could be closer to $150 million. It's possible that private partners could foot some or even the entire bill.Alvarez hopes to begin implementing the plan within the next two years.''I understand there will be a lot of challenges ahead,'' he said. ``I added an extra year because I know we would be breaking ground in a lot of areas.''The committee will sponsor a number of focus groups and reconvene in September.Meanwhile, a separate plan to provide free wireless Internet access in Miami Beach is advancing.Gladys Acosta, the IT director for Miami Beach, said the city was designing its network. She said it had been difficult to identify city-owned buildings, poles and streetlights where the system's infrastructure could be built.Both Broward and Palm Beach counties are also considering countywide wireless systems, according to Ralph MacNamara, an attorney who represented iCoast, a South Florida technology trade group, at the meeting. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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