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WiFi across Birmingham – Not a New Idea

4 January 2008

I just checked out the new City of Birmingham website (www.BirminghamAL.gov) per a recommendation from The Terminal… nice job, April Odom!!  The new site is a far cry from the one it replaced, confusingly named “InformationBirmingham”.  If you were to visit the old URL, you will arrive at the new site, but through the magic of the ‘way back machine‘, click HERE to see remnants of the old site from July 2007.

Now, to the topic at hand.  I learned from the site that the City’s Mayor is covening preachers from across the city to create a ubiquitious coverage of WiFi for the city.  And, that he’s going to leverage the 100’s of church locations to get it done.  Here is what the City’s website says:

therightspotwifi.gifMayor Larry P. Langford announced his “The Right Spot” initiative in today’s city council meeting. The initiative intends to make the City of Birmingham a seamless Wi-Fi hotspot by utilizing churches and other organizations as wireless hot spots. Mayor Langford has called a meeting of all interested clergy on Monday, January 7, 2008 at 11:00 a.m. in the Council Chamber. 

The BBJ reported the same with additional details on Wednesday afternoon.  It will be interesting to see how many clergy show up on Monday.  Will others be turned away?  What about the operators of the 100 currently available WiFi spots (most of them free)?

I may be suffering from some sour grapes here, because while I was with TechBirmingham I thrice brought FREE offers to the former Mayor’s office only to be stonewalled by the Chief of Staff.  It is so refreshing to see attention given to this issue.  Other cities have long ago started their efforts to wirelessly enable their populace.  It’s great to see Birmingham make a move in that direction, albeit late in the game.  My connections are still there, but I wonder if they would still want to play?  And, does the Mayor already have a vendor (and FUNDING???) in mind to make this dream a reality?  Where at a church would the user sit?  Would access only be granted for the students who receive XO computers?  I guess that I should show up on Monday and see what the answers are.

In the meantime, you (and the Mayor’s office) can see where the City of Birmingham’s 100 WiFi hotspots already ARE at BhamWiFi.com – enjoy!  BTW, there are over 340 public sites (about which we know) across our metro region.  If Langford is successul in “The Right Spot” initiative, then Birmingham will certainly rocket up in the national rankings for free WiFi.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. chotty permalink
    7 January 2008 9:28 am

    i think a WIMAX network would be more forward thinking.

  2. 7 January 2008 11:27 am

    Yes, it would be more forward thinking, but would not serve the market that Mayor Langford is after… the 15,000 XO laptops he will distribute in the spring.

    But there’s another reason why WiMAX won’t work (for now)… the following is clipped from http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Wimax:

    “The other piece of this equation is the need for WiMAX access technology in the laptop. I am communicating with PCMCIA reference designers and chip manufacturers to develop an access piece that will complement the low cost laptop and will work with WiMAX base station such that students will have internet/intranet access (and instruction) 7x24x365. I feel we might be a few months away from a ‘value network’ of vendors/manufacturers that can produce at least a WiMAX PCMCIA or USB access device that will function with existing PCs/laptops and quite possibly new low cost or even ‘$100’ laptops.”

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