Arizona tests highway WiFi network

In 1995 Congress created the CANAMEX Corridor, a series of highways which extends from Mexico to Canada, running through Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Montana. The Arizona portion of CANAMEX spans 487 miles, with many parts running through rural areas with spotty cellular or landline coverage. To remedy that, the Arizona government in April launched a pilot project which would allow first responders to use a WiFi network to communicate along a 30-mile stretch of the highway, from Green Valley in Pima County to Rio Rico in Santa Cruz County. The network would also be used to bring technology to communities located in the desolate patches along the corridor. Governor Janet Napolitano has launched the CANAMEX Task Force to oversee this "smart corridor" project, create partnerships with industry, and raise the required funds.

In May 2004 the Department of Homeland Security's Information Technology and Evaluation Program (ITEP) announced a grant competition to encourage the use of IT to improve information sharing and integration, especially among first responders. Last fall, the ITEP awarded the Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM) $499,821 to test the WiFi network. The state is now conducting a nine-month, proof-of-concept trial. The trial will concentrate on two main issues: Developing the right infratructure to overcome geographic challenges, and maintaining a high-speed connection for those driving in excess of 70 miles per hour.

For more on Arizona's smart corridor pilot project:
- see Eliot Cole's Government Technology report

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