October 9, 2008

Is Wireless Oakland Back On-line?

Wireless Oakland – the ambitious plan to blanket Oakland County with free wireless Internet access – may be revived, according to a recent article in the Detroit News.

The project was first rolled out in March 2005, when the County partnered with Michtel – a private company – and selected seven pilot areas in Troy, Royal Oak, Pontiac, Birmingham, Madison Heights, Oak Park, and Wixom.

The County and cities gave Michtel access to utility poles, buildings, and radio towers on which to install access points. In exchange, the company would provide free wireless Internet access to anyone in those areas at a speed that was somewhere between dial up and broadband. If an individual wanted a faster connection, he or she could purchase that from the company.

After the pilot areas were completed, the plan was to gradually increase the wireless areas until the entire County was covered.

From the start, financial problems and delays plagued the project. Eventually, Michtel set up the pilot areas. But in June of this year, the project ran out of money and the plan was put on hold.

Now, according to the company, there might be enough interest from private investors to start Wireless Oakland back up by December.

We’ll see.

The idea of turning entire cities and counties into wireless hotspots, in order to provide a basic level of Internet access for everyone. has been big for the past several years. In addition to Oakland County, Macomb and Washtenaw have explored the possibility. Neither has progressed much.

Across the country, the situation is much the same. In cities like San Francisco, similar plans have been scrapped. Depending on the private sector for such a project hasn't panned out, and most municipalities have been reluctant to recognize the value of providing free public-sponsored wi-fi for their residents.

Unfortunately, the idea that one day soon we would be able to travel across large sections of the States and always be in a free wi-fi hotspot has faded.

To keep up on municipal wireless plans and news, check out

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