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12/22/2008
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Minneapolis' Wi-Fi Municipal Network Hits A Bump -- Its Parks Department

A permitting glitch is preventing people who live near the city's lakes from accessing the muni Wi-Fi network.

Billed as the shining example of a municipal Wi-Fi network that works, the Minneapolis network has run into a glitch, much like most of the nation's other municipal Wi-Fi networks, many of which have folded.

The problem is strictly intramural, though: the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board wasn't asked for permits to install radios and poles on the roads and paths that connect the city's park system. The installers began to build out network links on the park system unbeknownst to system officials, and the build-out is on hold until the issues can be solved.

"We're kind of at an impasse," a US Internet executive told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "If the Park & Recreation Board turns us down, people who live around the city lakes will not have the opportunity to get city Wi-Fi access." The State Historic Preservation Office also may need to be consulted before the deployment proceeds.

The build-out is expected to proceed even if the parks aren't fully equipped with gear, although the network could be truncated in some neighborhoods.

So far, Minneapolis has succeeded with deploying a municipal Wi-Fi deployment where other attempts at establishing muni networks in Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and other cities have failed. Minneapolis expects to continue with its deployment next year after meetings are held with the Park & Recreation Board.

The city network is more than 80% deployed and is aiming at reaching 95% of Minneapolis' citizens when the network is completed. The city is paying $1.3 million a year to support the service, and its city departments will use the network. Individual consumers have been signing up for the service at $19.95 a month.

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