A Continent Connected: The (Slow) Rise of WiFi

Dennis Faas's picture

As North America becomes increasingly dependent on the Internet, WiFi is becoming a household term across the continent. City planners are building WiFi into future plans, and in many U.S. cities wireless Internet can be reached from the average cafe.

What is WiFi, exactly?

The name WiFi was originally coined by the company WiFi Alliance as a descriptor of its Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN). However, as wireless technology and the name itself have become so popular, WiFi is no longer a licensed term, and it even appears in recent versions of Webster's dictionary.

By engaging anything from laptops to PDAs near a WiFi "Access Point" (AP), users can gain Internet access without routers, or messy cords. WiFi was first intended for Local Area Networks (LANs), but has in the past few years acted as a virtual hub for Internet access, gaming, and even the connection of other electronics, such as televisions and DVD players. (Source: wikipedia.org)

In recent years, WiFi has become a part of average America's city infrastructure. Two years ago, the city of Tempe, Arizona set in motion plans to bring WiFi to all of its 160,000 residents without raising taxes, and in that time the virtual connection has been appreciatively adopted by city workers, including fire and police rescue teams.

Why no cost to residents?

In many instances, as was the case in Tempe, private companies are willing to assume initial costs in order to get a successful WiFi network established.

Tempe's city councilors teamed with MobilePro, a nationally-represented Internet and telecommunications company. MobilePro forked over $3 million for more than 700 poles, transmitters, and receivers. While residents were not docked for the massive cost of establishing the network, they are debited $29.95 a month if they want to tap into MobilePro's wireless network. (Source: news.com)

This is where the problem seems to lie. As of now, Tempe's residents are not paying the monthly, weekly, or daily fees. Many might be happy with the free two-hour-a-day 56Kbps service that MobilePro offers. The popular following of city workers is undoubtedly also a result of costs. Civil services in Tempe are not charged for using the full network as offered by MobilePro.

Recently, the city of Philadelphia decided to sell wireless connectivity as a municipal service. Clearly, WiFi is making its mark on cities across the United States. Now, all they have to do is make it available for free. (Source: news.com)

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