Allegany goes wireless

Allegany County officials in Maryland expects by the beginning of June to complete a wireless network that will provide broadband network access for almost all of its residents and businesses, one of the largest rollouts so far of municipal wireless services.

The county believes the network, which will cost $4.7 million, will be a crucial factor in enticing commercial Internet service providers to the county. The municipality will not provide the service itself but offer the wireless network as last mile connectivity for providers to get service to users.

The nearest large market for ISPs is over 60 miles away in the city of Hagerstown, and service providers haven't been encouraged enough by the potential in Allegany County to invest there, according to Jeff Blank, the county's networking supervisor.

But with the announcement of the new network, "we have got indications that this will bring them in," he said.

Given the reluctance of major service providers to move into Allegany County, the county had to develop the network itself for economic development, Blank said.

"It was more a case that if we do not build it then they would not come," he said.

The county runs an existing wireless network called AllCoNet 1 that connects only nonprofits, schools and public offices. AllCoNet 2 will make broadband access available to 85 percent of county residencies, 95 percent of businesses and 100 percent of the industrial parks in the county.

AllCoNet 2 provides backbone data rates of over 620 megabits/sec, while the connections to the customer premise will be at various tiered service levels of from 500 kilobits/second up to OC-3, or 155 megabits/sec.

AllCoNet 2 itself will not deliver any private-sector applications or service, Blank pointed out, just empty pipes for the ISPs to use.

Blank said the wireless network was really the only way to provide countywide broadband access. It would have cost the county $189 million for the local exchange carrier to lay enough fiber to get complete county coverage, he said.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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