Citywide Wi-Fi Network Would Benefit Milwaukee

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

As the buzz about Milwaukee becoming the nation’s first wireless city grows, there’s no shortage of misinformation and inaccuracies being spread around about our company’s model for building a citywide Wi-Fi network. In the interest of clarifying these misconceptions, we offer the following summary of Midwest Fiber’s model, how we got here and where we’re headed.

Midwest Fiber Networks LLC would build and maintain a citywide wireless data network – at no cost to taxpayers. This is unlike proposals in other cities that would require public financing to build the wireless network infrastructure.

We would pay fees to the city to lease additional rights of way on city-owned facilities such as buildings, streetlights and traffic signals on which to place wireless network hardware. We already have similar licenses with the city and utilities as part of private networks we’ve built, so any agreement with the city would be an expansion of an existing relationship.

We would lease our network to service providers who would, in turn, provide broadband, or high speed, Internet access to end-users. Our revenues would come from our contracts with these providers.

Midwest Fiber saw an opportunity to expand our working relationship with the city of Milwaukee. We approached Mayor Tom Barrett and several members of the Common Council with a request for additional facilities access in order to build a citywide Wi-Fi network.

These city leaders have been strong supporters of the "Milwaukee Wireless Initiative," which aims to place the city at the forefront of wireless communications. Because we’re a Milwaukee-based business that shares the city’s commitment to bridging the "digital divide" by providing low-cost access to lower-income residents, our model has been met with enthusiasm from city leaders.

Our network would provide service across all of Milwaukee, and deliver access to areas of the city that currently lack strong broadband coverage.

The network would also create unique opportunities for small businesses to send and receive data in the field. This presents obvious benefits to businesses that use laptop computers and wireless devices to transact from remote locations around the city.

By deploying one of the nation’s first citywide Wi-Fi networks, Milwaukee’s leadership would also make the city more attractive to forward-thinking businesses considering relocation.

Additionally, new jobs would be created with Midwest Fiber. These positions would range from high-level engineering roles, to entry-level construction jobs. We’ve been in discussion with several community groups to establish programs for recruitment, training and job mentoring – all of which would create new opportunities for minorities and women with our company.

Finally, more Internet service options would mean more competition – which would result in better quality and lower rates all around.

Under our model, any other company would be able to negotiate with the city to build a similar network. We’re also pursuing an "open network" approach, meaning any service provider would be able to negotiate to lease bandwidth on the Midwest Fiber network.

Midwest Fiber will negotiate an agreement with the city’s chief information officer for additional rights of way on city-owned structures. The Common Council will have final approval of any agreement. Assuming we can reach an agreement, Midwest Fiber would continue deploying the network infrastructure.

It should take us six to 12 months to complete the network. Since we already have rights of way with the city and area utilities – and infrastructure in place from previous networks we’ve built – we’re confident we could deploy a citywide Wi-Fi network 18-24 months faster than any other provider.

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