Citywide Internet will soon be available as a monthly service in Port Angeles on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Mayor Cherie Kidd, Police Chief Terry Gallagher, and Councilwoman Brooke Nelson participated in a ceremonial "cable cutting" event last week. The event was to celebrate the new network, nicknamed "The Mesh." Arwyn Rice, of the Olympic Peninsula Daily News covered the event in a recent article.
According to the Metro-Net website, a $2.6 million Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant funded part of the $3.7 million Wi-fi system. The network serves a dual purpose, serving public safety first responders and a separate level for public access. From the News article:
The public safety system allows police officers to track each other through the city so that they know where their backup is without having to call radio dispatchers.
They also can do their own searches on driver's licenses and license plates, check recent call histories and access reports, said Officer Erik Smith, who demonstrated the use of the system in his patrol car.
Eventually, the system will be patched into the city's security cameras and police car dashboard cameras — and potentially Port Angeles School District security cameras — so that officers will be able to monitor situations at City Pier from their cars at Lincoln Park, said Police Chief Terry Gallagher.
“The limitation is our imagination,” Gallagher said.
While access is free through October 31, OlyPen MetroNet will start offering a variety of plans on November 1. Mobile and fixed-point service will be available and range from $5.95 (some sources say $4.95) for one day to $37.95 per month. Every user will receive the first hour of Internet access free each day.
As we have often found, the spirit of collaboration and determination on a local level helped realize this possibility:
The extensive Wi-Fi system was possible because those creating the network had the cooperation of a utility system that already had the infrastructure in place, said Columbia Telecommunications Corp. founder and principal engineer Lee Afflerbach, who designed much of the system for the city.
The system that was created depended on the ability of the many public and private entities who were willing to work together, Afflerbach said.
“Port Angeles has unique character. It is small enough to work with but big enough to be real,” he said.
Afflerbach said he engineered the system for a major Silicon Valley city that initially expressed interest in a citywide Wi-Fi network but ultimately backed out.
“Port Angeles was the first to say, 'Do it,'” he said.
In September, Port Angeles received the 2012 Community Broadband Wireless Network of the Year award from NATOA for "planning and deploying an innovative, multi-use, multi-sectoral wireless network to serve public safety, consumers, local government and tribal needs."