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City wi-fi hope loses its signal

By Heather Warlick Published: April 20, 2008
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a dream shared by many Oklahomans. In that dream, no matter where you were standing in Oklahoma City, you could pull out your laptop computer, log on to free citywide wireless Internet and search the Web to your heart's delight.

The landscape of that dream was peppered with wireless Internet transmitting towers as far as the eye could see and on every power pole, a router was attached, beaming its free connectivity straight to the antenna of your iPhone, laptop or PDA.

Well, for a while, that dream seemed attainable but the logistics didn't pan out as hoped.

"Not that we've completely turned our back on the concept,” Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said. "But the idea that it was proceeding with any sort of quick pace has just disappeared from the landscape. Cities all over the country are trying to figure out if they should be involved at all or not.”

But the good news is that Oklahoma City has the largest emergency wireless Internet system in the world.

"We're the acknowledged leader in what's called metromesh wi-fi,” Cornett said. "It's the most cost effective way to get data to public safety officials that we've ascertained and we have a lot of people that are envious of what we've put together.”

Earthlink, an Internet provider that had been on board along with city governments to bring free wi-fi to the masses backed out last year.

"Earthlink acted like it really wanted to be a player and really wanted to do it and so cities were just signing up,” Cornett said.

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