Roanoke gets WiFi.

I’ve been pushing Charlottesville to set up 802.11x-based wireless Internet access throughout downtown for two years ago. I started off attempting to set it up as a private venture, but it became obvious that it would be difficult to do without cooperation from the city. (Additionally, I knew that it wouldn’t do me any good to get the credit for setting it up — City Council, on the other hand, could bask in the glow of the inevitable good press.) In the first few days of 2003, I sent an extensive letter to City Council, explaining why I felt that the installation of wireless Internet access would be beneficial. It would be cheap (just under $3,000), easy, and tremendously helpful. The letter was passed along to the city IT department, where it was reviewed by employee John Lewis. I had lunch with him a few days later, and he turned out not only to have some really excellent thoughts about setting up the system, but to be a great guy to boot. He did his best, but there was no movement from the powers that be at the city. On June 2nd, I addressed City Council and again proposed the idea, although in a briefer format. City Councilor Kevin Lynch was enthusastic about the idea, but three and a half months later, I’m aware of no movement towards making this network happen.

That kvetching/background aside, I saw yesterday that RoanokeWiFi has been announced. This is a free public wireless Internet access system that’s available along a few blocks of downtown Roanoke. The 802.11b-based system is a result of a public-private partnership between the City of Roanoke, the New Century Technology Council, and Downtown Roanoke, Inc. It’s a one-year pilot program at this point, though I imagine that they’ll decide to continue it this time next year. It is browser- and operating system-agnostic, with the only limitation being that use is capped to two hours per day. All in all (without knowing the cost of implementing the system), it sounds like a fine setup.

Roanoke: 1
Charlottesville: 0

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »