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In recent years, Minneapolis has been one of the key cities working to get its residents connected to free Internet. In 2006, the city signed a contract with USI Wireless to build a citywide wireless network.

Now as part of that ongoing effort to bridge the digital divide, the city announced 117 "Wireless Minneapolis" hot spots for residents and visitors to access the Internet for no charge.

"A wireless city benefits everyone in the community whether you're a resident, business owner or visitor," said City Council Member Gary Schiff, chair of the city's Information Services Policy Steering Group, in a statement. "By investing in the tools, training and technology necessary to increase Internet access for all, we've found new ways to connect to our community and for our community to connect to the world."

When connected to one of the hot spots, users can access any website on the Internet for up to one hour. When that time expires, the session ends. But users can log on again for extended access. For homeland security purposes, a credit card will be required to access the Internet at a hot spot, but the card will not be charged, according to the city.

The 10-year contract between Minneapolis and USI Wireless, a private company, was established to provide the city with broadband technology that delivers more effective and efficient Internet services. In choosing the locations for the hot spots, the city looked for places with a high concentration of people, such as parks, plazas, schools and businesses. To find an access point, residents should look for signs that say, "Free Wireless Minneapolis Hotspot Courtesy: City of Minneapolis USI Wireless." The free wireless signal will be available up to 600 feet from the sign. For a list and map of locations, visit www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/wirelessminneapolis.

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