City on right path toward becoming wireless
Honolulu residents can gain free wireless access to the city's Web site and soon may gain access from buses.
WIRELESS access to the Internet is spreading through many cities on the mainland, and Mayor Hannemann is making progress on increasing the number of "hot spots" on Oahu
. The city's partnership with Honolulu-based SkyWave Broadband LLC has led to large areas of wireless Internet access in Waikiki, downtown and elsewhere, and the goal should be to make the entire island a hot spot.
The main goal should be to allow residents access to the Internet while on the move. The city should take a major move in that direction by ensuring access on mass transit, first on city buses, then on the commuter ferry system planned next year between Kalaeloa and downtown and finally on the city's future rapid transit system.
San Francisco became the first American city to offer wireless communication underground to passengers on its Bay Area Rapid Transit. In Seattle, Wi-Fi -- wireless fidelity networks -- has extended to many neighborhoods, airports and ferry boats. Sprint Hawaii has proposed installing devices on Honolulu buses that would allow riders to surf the Web and send e-mail while commuting.
Most of Honolulu's stationary hot spots prior to this year had been provided in hotels, coffeehouses, restaurants and shopping malls. SkyWave has worked with the Shidler Group, Hawaii's largest commercial property owner, to extend it to buildings throughout Waikiki and downtown.
Under a new demonstration project, people will be allowed access to the city's Web site free of charge at SkyWave hot spots on Oahu. The company plans to establish 125 access points across Oahu by the end of next year.
Other cities are going ahead with ambitious projects that should be useful in deciding how to develop Honolulu's wireless area. Yesterday, Tempe, Ariz., launched what it calls the first and largest citywide Wi-Fi Network. Within a few months, it will include 160,000 residents within 40 square miles.
Six companies have submitted bids to begin constructing a wireless network in Portland that is planned to go online early next year and eventually extend throughout the city. Philadelphia has hired EarthLink Inc. to build a system consisting of 4,000 signal boxes across 135 square miles. In Madison, Wis., a group of high-tech companies has committed to building a wireless network beginning downtown and spreading to the entire city.
In most cases, the systems are built without upfront taxpayer money. In Madison, Internet service providers will purchase access from the wireless companies and in turn sell it to their customers. Bidders in Philadelphia and Portland indicated they expect wireless access will cost about $20 a month, about the same as dial-up Internet service.