Longboat Key Commissioner Gene Jaleski has gained commission support to have Town Manager Bruce St. Denis investigate a Wi-Fi infrastructure system for use Key-wide.
When Jaleski and his companion were traveling in Paris a few months ago, he says a Wi-Fi system, or municipal digital infrastructure, that only charges city residents $46 per month for television, phone and Internet service intrigued him.
Jaleski came back to Longboat Key and began to research the Wi-Fi system, which is in use, he says, in 20,000 square miles of the United States right now.
The systems use fiber optic cable, which would run through utility poles and have small antennas mounted on light posts or utility poles.
There is also $4.6 billion set aside in federal stimulus money for broadband infrastructure that could be used for a Longboat Key Wi-Fi infrastructure for phone and Internet services only, which Jaleski estimates will cost between $2 million to $3 million.
“We could charge the residents of this island around $15 per month for services they typically pay $50 per month for now,” Jaleski said. “The town, in turn, would receive an income stream that would pay for the system.”
The commissioner envisions a system that all of the approximately 9,500 single-family homes and condominiums could use.
Utilities such as Florida Power & Light could also take advantage of the system as part of its smart grid initiative, by alerting customers through the infrastructure and shutting off certain appliances to save customers money.
The town, Jaleski says, could also hook up water meters to the Wi-Fi system, getting accurate readings without spending town money to have an employee manually read the meters each month.
Police and fire-rescue services, such as radio communication and Internet service for laptop computers in patrol cars, would also be more efficient if they were connected to the system.
But, most of all, Jaleski says, the system would entice tourists on the island to take advantage of free Wi-Fi service for their computers and cell phones. The system would also allow visitors to use a navigation Web site, or portal, that tells them where they can shop or eat on the Key.
The system, Jaleski said, would also increase cellular reception island-wide, where a cellular tower would only help reception on the north-end of the island.
“It would bring travelers to our community and help us achieve better cell-phone reception,” Jaleski said.
Town Manager St. Denis said the town is investigating the infrastructure at the Town Commission’s direction, while also working with nearby communities to apply for a grant to increase broadband width and boost reception in certain locations.
If successful, St. Denis says the increased broadband width might entice companies offering Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) to the Key.
DAS, which acts to boost cellular reception by placing small antennas on utility poles, is also a system Jaleski has supported.
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COULD IT WORK?
A city-owned Wi-Fi system, or municipal digital infrastructure, is already in place and working well in places such as Juno Beach and Rock Hill, S.C.
Rock Hill uses a system to provide wireless automated meter reading, public-safety communication and wireless video in public parks and offers free Wi-Fi access to residents.
The city used local banks to finance a system that encompasses 50 square miles of coverage, obtaining a 4% five-year loan for the network, which cost approximately $4 million.
Jimmy Bagley, the public services administrator for Rock Hill, said the city has recouped some of its investment by saving money in its police, fire and public works departments.
Andrea Jost, project coordinator for the town of Juno Beach, said her town paid $154,000 two years ago for a smaller Wi-Fi infrastructure that was originally established to enhance communication for its police officers.
As an added bonus, residents and visitors are allowed to pay hourly, daily, weekly or monthly for the Wi-Fi service, for which she says the town charges $24.95 per month.
The town used taxpayer dollars to pay for the system and takes advantage of a revenue split to help recoup portions of the investment.
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