Wireless Minneapolis coming soon to campus

by Devin Henry

The city of Minneapolis, in conjunction with USI Wireless, is partway through constructing a new wireless Internet service, known as Wireless Minneapolis.

The network will eventually provide wireless Internet access anywhere in Minneapolis to individuals and businesses who subscribe.

Currently, the Seward neighborhood and much of the West Bank campus area is covered.

Kurt Lange, vice president of operations at USI Wireless, said that despite early problems with the infrastructure, the implementation of the program is going smoothly.

“We are getting areas lit up and turned on and we are pleased with it,” he said.

Lange said the problems with the system included adapting to Minnesota’s landscape and “curvy roads,” but problems were fixed.

The company reworked plans for where to put receivers, he said.

“We have literally torn out zones and redeployed them,” Lange said.

“Now the zones go up and they are rock solid and pretty stable.”

Cam Gordon, Ward 2 city councilman, was the only council member to vote against the proposal when the council approved the 10-year contract in Sept. 2006.

“What I really wanted to do was explore more public ownership,” he said.

“I saw this as a great opportunity to get something better for our residents.”

Gordon said he thinks the city got a good partnership with USI Wireless, but has heard mixed reviews from people about the service.

“It is particularly hard if you have a brick house or stucco house to have good service, and it depends a lot on where the receivers are located outside your building,” Gordon said.

Individualized studies senior Mandy Kritzeck uses ParkWifi, a citywide wireless network in St. Louis Park. She said she’s been disappointed with the program.

“It doesn’t work very well and it takes forever to download,” she said.

Kritzeck said she’d be interested in using Wireless Minneapolis if it had better coverage than the ParkWiFi she uses now.

“I think it’s a really good idea, but I think it needs to be more efficient,” she said.

“I have a laptop and I take it everywhere. It’s really helpful to be able to log on wherever.”

The Wireless Minneapolis service costs between $17.95 and $29.95 a month, depending on the Internet speed subscribers desire.

Lange said USI Wireless is looking to make a deal with the University to provide the service to students at a discounted rate.

“Now, as a student, if you wanted to get it everywhere else in the city, there would be a fee for doing that,” he said.

Michelle McGeehan of the Networking and Telecommunications Services said the University is working to change the wireless options offered on campus by the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.

The idea for a citywide wireless network came about in April 2005, and the city began soliciting proposals from private companies.

USI Wireless was selected over eight other companies.

Other major cities with similar networks include Philadelphia and New Orleans.

The Minneapolis network is scheduled to cover the entire city before the end of 2007.