Port Angeles to become first all-WiFi city in state

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Anyone within the city limit will have access to mobile Internet service Oct. 8, when the $3.7 million Metro-Net wireless project is launched and all of Port Angeles becomes a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Mayor Cherie Kidd will join other community leaders at The Gateway pavilion at 10 a.m. Oct. 8 to celebrate the increase of mobile Internet access and wide-ranging improvements to public safety communications, city Power Resources Manager Phil Lusk said Wednesday.

Internet Service, provided by Sequim-based OlyPen Inc., will be free for October for all users.

But after that, except for one hour a day and 12 days a year, it will be accessible only by paying fees of up to $34.95 a month for mobile users and $37.95 a month for fixed-point service, Charles “Doc” Beaudette, OlyPen general manager, said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the City Council also added 11 access points to the more than 200 that already are part of Metro-Net.

Also approved: a $127,166 amendment to a $2.6 million contract with Capacity Provisioning, which building the system with Cascade Networks Inc. of Longview and Aruba Networks Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.

Metro-Net will be extended to the Lower Elwha Klallam reservation by its completion date in mid-2013.

It also may be expanded to include the city’s eastern and western urban growth areas, Police Chief Terry Gallagher said.

When completed, it will be one of the only — if not the only — citywide Wi-Fi system anywhere in the U.S. to share infrastructure with a separate, public first-responder network.

Metro-Net will allow the on-scene sharing of documents, videos and other images between law enforcement, emergency medical personnel and medical providers, Gallagher said.

Paramedics, for example, will use Metro-Net to help treat a person who collapses in the street by sharing videos of the patient with a hospital that can transmit medical information about the person — and advice — back to the paramedics.

“This has never been done in this country before to the scale we are doing it here,” Gallagher told council members, adding that Port Angeles will become the only completely wireless city in Washington.

The project is funded with $2.6 million in federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and $1.4 million from the city that includes employee time spent on the project, upgrades to law enforcement’s Peninsula Communications system and improvements to the city’s fiber-optic capacity, city power resources manager Phil Lusk said.

“There was very little cash outlay,” Gallagher said. “It was primarily prior investments.”

The network already is being activated in certain areas of the city, but service is spotty — and for the most part eventually won’t be free, Lusk said.

OlyPen will provide the wireless service for one free hour per day for all between noon and midnight, Beaudette said Wednesday.

Users will have to use a full hour at one time and won’t be able to spread out their minutes of usage through the 24-hour period.

There also will be 12 free days of Internet service every year — though for this year, there will be only five.

This year, free days will be the Nov. 12 Veterans Day federal holiday, the Nov. 22 and Nov. 23 Thanksgiving Day holiday, Canada’s Boxing Day on Dec. 26, and Dec. 31, Lusk said.

Beaudette said non-OlyPen subscribers will pay $5.95 a day, $15.95 a week or $34.95 a month for the mobile Metro-Net service.

OlyPen customers will pay $4.95 a month for the mobile service, he said.

Fixed-point monthly service will cost $17.95, $27.95 or $37.95 depending on bandwidth.

Part of every customer’s ongoing fee will be paid to the city to help pay for maintenance, he said.

“Also, it’s a big boon for tourism,” Beaudette said.

Metro-Net’s kickoff is intended to coincide with the 11th annual Dungeness Seafood & Crab Festival from Oct. 12-14, he said.

“We want it to be open for the festival so vendors have open Internet connections,” Beaudette said.

The City Council on Tuesday night was enthusiastic about Gallagher’s presentation.

“I think this is a great idea for the city,” former Mayor Dan Di Guilio said.

“I fully support this project. Not only does it have public safety implications, but I think [for] economic development as well.”

As part of the $2.6 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant, multiple officers can connect to the Internet and communicate through what Gallagher called a wireless “mesh” network to send and receive information.

Public access was a requirement of the grant, though public safety information will be sent over secured connections.

“The intent is for public safety, but it includes high-speed broadband to what the grant calls underserved areas of the country,” Gallagher said Wednesday.

While accessing cameras at Port Angeles High School, for example, cameras at City Pier can be used as criminal background checks are run — all at once.

“The key is that it’s simultaneous,” Gallagher said.

“We can all do it at the same time. It gives us an efficiency we don’t enjoy today. Information is the key to our success,” he said.

“What we will end up with is cutting-edge public safety communication system all working together.”

OlyPen is accepting pre-sign-ups for the fixed-point service, while mobile service will be available in October.

Customers will be able to sign up for the service through www.olypen.com.

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 05. 2012 5:52PM
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