Tuesday, June 14, 2005

WiFi now in Historic Old Town, Alexandria

Last week, "Alexandria began providing free wireless Internet access in its historic center, the first local government to offer alfresco Web surfing at no charge.

"The one-year pilot program provides outdoor wireless service in an eight-block zone stretching from Washington Street to the Potomac River along King Street—the Old Town main drag that attracts tourists and residents with its shops and restaurants.

"The system, which relies on broadcasting equipment atop City Hall, the Torpedo Factory and a couple of utility poles, is aimed at outdoor cafe patrons or people who prefer parks to workstations, city officials said." ...

"Craig T. Fifer, Alexandria's e-government manager, said the city wants to provide a luxury amenity to its residents while testing a system it could use for more prosaic municipal tasks, such as monitoring traffic.

"And it's great public relations. The service will 'promote Alexandria as a high-technology area,' Fifer said. 'We often market ourselves as a historic area, but this technology helps put us on the high-tech map.'"

"Alexandria's effort cost about $20,000 to start and will be $7,800 yearly to maintain."

The Open Park Project also points out that publicly available wireless access in open spaces also improves public safety and homeland security. "In the event of any future catastrophe in Washington, when buildings must be evacuated and commercial wireless communications networks may become overloaded, as occurred on 9/11, Open Park's network will provide an independent outdoor emergency communications service for anyone working at or around the Mall, including Smithsonian employees."

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