Colorado city rolls out free Wi-Fi in seven parks

The city of Longmont, Colo., began offering free Wi-Fi service in seven city parks as a thank you to voters who last November elected to give the city the right to provide telecommunications services over its existing 17-mile-long fiber loop either directly or through a private partner.

Longmont Power & Communications, which runs the city's municipal electric utility, is providing the service, which, if successful, could be rolled out to other locations in Longmont or offered at city events, which are yet to be determined.

According to the Longmont Times-Call, providing round-the-clock service in the seven parks will cost the city $13,475 in startup costs, then an estimated $750 a year for maintenance. The seven Longmont parks receiving free Wi-Fi service include Roosevelt, Clark Centennial, Kanemoto, Collyer, Garden Acres, Thompson and Sandstone.

Several tests were conducted in preparation for the Wi-Fi rollout, with event-based service being made available earlier this year at the city's Youth Job Fair, the 2012 city council retreat and the Cinco de Mayo event at Roosevelt Park. "The infrastructure performed well during all tests, and at one point during the Cinco de Mayo event, at least 100 devices were connected to Longmont's system," said the city in the July/August issue of Longmontlife newsletter.

Longmont, which has some 80,000 residents, has had a checkered past when it comes to Wi-Fi. In October 2009, the city seized control of its citywide Wi-Fi Internet service after the operator, DHB Networks, failed to pay county taxes owed by its predecessor, Kite Networks. One month later, RidgeviewTel in partnership with StarNet LLC acquired DHB Network's Wi-Fi equipment but subsequently shuttered the free muni Wi-Fi offerinng, which was primarily available in the downtown area. RidgeviewTel still provides commercial Wi-Fi services to residences and businesses in Longmont.

The long-running public Wi-Fi debacle factored into contentious debate over the city's right to offer telecommunications services. In November 2011 a referendum vote in favor of letting Longmont offer telecom services effectively lifted state restrictions on the use of the city's existing fiber-optic network. Opponents, including Comcast, spent nearly $300,000 trying to convince Longmont's residents to defeat the ballot question. A similar referendum went down to defeat in 2009 after facing similar opposition. The city has planned public meetings in upcoming weeks regarding how it should structure its planned broadband offerings.

For more:
- see this city of Longmont newsletter
- see this Longmont Times-Call article

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