Public Broadband Wi-Fi Coming to Arlington

It looks like Arlington County is getting a wireless network that is supposed to cover the whole county, offering Wi-Fi access to all the citizens, workers and businesses in the county. From the Arlington County website:

The Wi-Fi mesh network will provide the approximately 26 square-mile Arlington County a broadband alternative for residents and visitors to the County. It will also enable County employees to work in the field without having to return to an office and a traditional landline to complete their tasks. EarthLink will also enable Internet access for to-be-determined nonprofit partners of Arlington County, as well as create wireless hotspots at a number of Arlington parks, community centers and libraries.

Now wait a second here – don’t think that you can just roam around the county using free Wi-Fi wherever you happen to be. Nope, you will still have to go to Murky Coffee or Caribou Coffee (home of the best damned hot chocolate ever) for that. What this offers is an “affordable” Wi-Fi service.

What’s affordable? Who’s to say? Well, if you are an Arlington resident, you can go to the public meeting on the issue this Tuesday evening at 7:30 in room 311 of Courthouse Plaza, 2100 Clarendon Boulevard and give them your two cents on the issue.

I suspect, having seen this sort of thing promised in other cities, that Earthlink will want to charge something slightly less than Starbuck’s does for Wi-Fi access and that the mesh will not really be built except in the more prosperous areas and places like Courthouse, where the county offices are. This is all just speculation on my part, not based on anything I have seen here in Arlington, which seems surprisingly free from the very extensive graft I witnessed in the last place I lived.

This is a great idea and I hope it gets made into a reality soon. My question is whether it will draw the revenue Earthlink will require to make it all feasible and whether it will be expandable to handle more traffic, should it become very popular. Alas, I can’t make it to the meeting because I have to teach that night, but I hope someone can go and report back what is discussed. Any volunteers?

5 Comments so far

  1. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on April 9th, 2007 @ 11:42 am

    There is already a county administered network “arlingtonwireless” that appears through much of the metro corridor, but it suffers from significantly constrained bandwidth, as well as a number of limitations regarding the sending of emails (won’t even allow me to send through my secure servers on port 25!)

    Perhaps this is something we should forgo for now, even as much as the technophile within me wants something like this.

  2. Nick (unregistered) on April 9th, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

    Caribou has great hot chocolate? Who knew?! ;-)

  3. Carl Weaver (unregistered) on April 9th, 2007 @ 4:18 pm

    Yeah, Nick, but Murky Coffee (home of the best damned coffee ever) uses real chocolate. I think Caribou uses chocolate-flavored crack.

  4. Doug (unregistered) on April 9th, 2007 @ 6:10 pm

    Downtown Silver Spring has been offering free public access wifi for a few years now. Not nearly the coverage that is proposed for Arlington, but during warm weather it sure is convenient to sit outside and sip your coffee or munch your lunch while you access the internet on your laptop. I’ve never had a problem getting to my email or any other service. It can be a bit slow at times, but what should you expect for free?

  5. Don (unregistered) on April 9th, 2007 @ 6:29 pm

    I got one of the Sprint Broadband cards to support our sales when we’re at Eastern Market – or at least that’s the lie I told myself – and I could never go back. No more iffy signals, overpriced hotel lobbys, crazy $10 “day passes” from T-Mediocre’s Hot Spots. I push the card in and I’m on the net with speeds that rival my cable modem at home.

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