Municipal wireless projects are being planned across the country. For many, that planning has become very time-consuming because jurisdictions embarking on a wireless future are entering uncharted territory with few examples or best practices to follow.

Now those municipalities can look to Corpus Christi, Texas, where in early December 2006, the city completed a 147-square-mile wireless network. The network, which took 18 months to build, benefits city government and citizens alike.

The initial plan was to provide an automated meter reading solution that was more reliable and cost-effective than cellular modems. But now the network enables a number of applications geared toward improving service to citizens, and providing the infrastructure necessary to give wireless Internet access to the community as well.

"In the process of testing the technology with many applications," said Director of Municipal Information Systems Ogilvie Gericke, who managed the project, "it became apparent that this system had many more benefits available to the city and its economy."

Currently city residents, businesses and visitors can use the network for free, but that will change in the future. Gericke said EarthLink is negotiating to purchase the network under a franchise agreement and offer subscription services.

"Eventually to provide a truly commercial-grade service, that will take someone who really does that for a living. That's not really us," said City Manager George "Skip" Noe, who directed the project, in a January 2007 Texas Technology magazine interview.

Even as community access shifts to a private provider, the vision, management and planning of people like Noe and Gericke can serve as an example for other cities wanting to bring the benefits of wireless access to citizens. And Noe said he believes this type of offering will become essential for every city.

"You almost have to start viewing it as part of the basic infrastructure," Noe told the magazine. "You would not consider moving to a neighborhood that didn't have streets and water. We think this is the next element that will be necessary in every community."

Emily Montandon  |  Editor