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•Ardmore, a city of about 25,000 in south-central Oklahoma, expects to offer subscriptions to residents by the end of the month, as well as hourly rates for any visitors traveling along Interstate 35. Offering public access is a byproduct of the real reason these cities are going wireless — and Enid and Altus, are seriously considering it. The timely information police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel will get is priceless, city leaders say.
Cities poised to reap wireless benefits
Two Oklahoma cities will offer municipally owned Internet service to residents and anyone else who happens to drop in:•Vinita, a city of about 6,000 residents in northeast Oklahoma, already has monthly subscribers to its Internet service, and offers hourly rates to anyone stopping off Interstate 44 (Will Rogers Turnpike) or Route 66.
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The bottom lineThe network in Vinita has been in place a few months. It has 135 customers paying $29.99 a month for unlimited access, and charges $2.99 per hour for temporary access, Vinita City Manager Charlie Enyart said. Enyart also is chairman of the Community Communications Authority, a public trust partnering with Internet service providers to bring wireless service to smaller communities. He hopes the network will draw more people to Vinita, which boasts the world's largest McDonald's. The McDonald's and surrounding truck stops are among the busiest spots on the city's wireless network. "There are 50,000 vehicles that pass Vinita on Interstate 44 every day and another 15,000 vehicles on Route 66,” Enyart said. Enyart said covering the city cost about $750,000. The city signed a 12-year note to fund the project and is charging an extra $1.50 on each monthly utility bill, he said. "Right now it (wireless system) is costing the community,” Enyart said. "But within two years the city should be stable as far as expense and start saving the city money.” Antennas and transmitters have been set up across Ardmore, and by Friday police and fire department vehicles with laptop computers should be on the grid. By the end of the month, residents and visitors in Ardmore will be able to access the Internet for $29.95 a month or $2.95 an hour, said Ron Gates, general manager of the Community Communications Authority.
National trendThe number of cities with municipal wireless networks is growing nationally, according to figures from MuniWireless, a Web site that tracks municipal network construction and issues. In July 2005, 122 communities owned some form of wireless network. Two years later, the number was 415, according to MuniWireless. The technology isn't new, said the group's founder, Esme Vos, but medium-sized cities are pursuing it more aggressively and getting it done.