Every community needs visionary leaders who see future trends and work hard to bring related opportunities to their town or city. Two recent cases involving community wifi networking projects hightlight this contention.

Floydada is a small community near Lubbock, Texas, and is the only participanting district in the Texas statewide technology immersion pilot project to extend laptop immersion beyond grades 6-8, to also include students in grades 9-12 with local funds. According to yesterday’s article, “Floydada’s wireless venture grabs attention of other towns:”

Floydada ISD built out its [community] wireless system with the help of Blue Moon Solutions and the Reese Technology Center, which hosted a half-day conference Tuesday for 20 South Plains towns that are investigating a wider regional rollout of the high-speed Internet technology. The Blue Moon/Reese partnership is now making use of a 600-foot tower at the former U.S. Air Force base, which will eventually make it possible for rural West Texas communities to travel at highway speeds across the Internet.

Marty Hale, chief executive officer for Blue Moon, said deploying Wi-Fi to these small towns could be as big as the discovery of oil and gas for some.

“This is about as revolutionary as it comes. We’re out there now building an infrastructure that will support school districts, police and emergency medical services while saving them money,” he said.

Just as railroads and highways in the industrial age paved the way for commerce and prosperity, so too will the road of economic development for communities in the 21st century be paved with high speed Internet connections. Small towns like Floydada are not the only ones moving toward municipal wifi. According to Arstechnica today:

AT&T has decided to get in on the action [of municipal WiFi networking], signing an agreement with Springfield, Illinois to develop and deploy a WiFi network that will cover the 25 square mile area around the city center. Residents outside that zone will be able to connect to the network via external antennas. While the network will initially use 802.11g, plans are in place to incorporate WiMAX over the next couple of years as that technology becomes more widely deployed in the US.

Springfield residents will have their choice of free, low-speed access and faster, paid access. As is the case with other municipal networks, the free access will be ad-supported. The faster tier of service will be available on a daily or monthly basis, with pricing undetermined. AT&T will also market the service as an add-on feature for its DSL customers.

Are the leaders in your community talking about a municipal WiFi project? If not, they should be. Do you want your town to end up like Radiator Springs, in the movie “Cars?!”

For more on this, see my post from earlier this month: “More cities and towns considering municipal wireless” as well as my past posts on Floydada ISD and their 1:1 laptop learning initiative.

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One Response to Rural and Muni WiFi projects

  1. taf says:

    Wesley

    As always, an excellent post. This applies to most of the Western part of the US.

    Your involvment with Floydada should serve as a model for many other rural communities.

    How did Springfield get AT&T to commit to such an ambitious project?

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