Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Milwaukee signs wireless network contract

The Business Journal of Milwaukee - 2:54 PM CDT Wednesday
by Rachel McCormick-Jennings

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett signed a contract with Midwest Fiber Networks Wednesday, allowing the company to finally begin its build-out of a citywide wireless Internet network.

The Milwaukee firm will begin building a test area in the Marquette University area Oct. 2. The build-out is expected to be completed by Jan. 18, 2007, said Donna Raffaelli-Meyer, a principal with Midwest Fiber.

It has taken over eight months for city officials and Midwest Fiber executives to finalize a contract. Raffaelli-Meyer said the contract required more research and information than all parties involved anticipated because it was the first one the city negotiated.

In recent weeks, Milwaukee aldermen have criticized Midwest Fiber for the length of time it has taken to get an agreement in place.

Under the agreement, Midwest will build out the entire network within the next 18 months. It is estimated that it will cost Midwest Fiber $20 million to build the network, but no tax dollars will be use to fund the project.

Midwest has the exclusive right to build the wireless network on city property, but when they are completed, other vendors may build their own wireless network, Barrett said.

"It's always been my goal to make this work with Midwest Fiber," Barrett said. "They're a local company, the decisions are made locally, and they were the first to step up to the plate with no costs to taxpayers."

Midwest Fiber will announce which firm will provide the Internet service over the next several weeks, Raffaelli-Meyer said.

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