Grand Haven, Michigan is the First US WiFi City

Many US cities are racing towards complete WiFi internet coverage, but Grand Haven, Michigan got there on Saturday with complete end-to-end high speed wireless internet access.

The WifFi deployment by Ottawa Wireless Inc is the first full and complete city-wide WiFi deployment in the US. So they only have 12,000 residents, but they receive more than two million visitors each year.

Mayor Roger Bergman said in his announcement: “As the first WiFi city in America, Grand Haven has truly lived up to its name in the Internet era, as we now allow anyone anywhere to connect to the Internet and roam the city and waterways in a completely secure computing environment. The city-wide WiFi service provided by Ottawa Wireless is already enhancing the quality of life for residents and tourists and enabling the city to provide new services.”

The service uses several hundred 802.11a, b and g transceivers to cover the six square miles of the city, and even extends 15 miles into Lake Michigan – handy for checking weather forecasts if you’re out fishing. One local web designer has relocated to his office to his boat for the summer – he’ll be fine as long as he stays under 55 mph. The new network even incorporates a VoIP service for cheap voice calls.

Ottawa Wireless’ CEO Tyler van Howelingen commented on the structure of the project: “Grand Haven demonstrates how the public and private sectors can work together to provide an entire city and everyone within its limits with more affordable, easy-to-access Internet service. This is a proud moment for Grand Haven, and the benefits of anytime-anywhere Internet access are being enjoyed by every facet of our town, from tourists, boaters, and residents to businesses and municipal agencies. Already with more than 300 customers, this WiFi service is having a dramatic impact on the way people work, play and communicate around town. Its benefits are many, as it enables new public security services, attracts businesses, boosts tourism, and supports education.”

The service is subsidized by some of the hotels and marinas in the area, who also offer it free to their guests. Normally the service is US$19.99 (€16.57) for 256 kbps.

Grand Haven

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?