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Wireless in the City?

Elizabeth Says "Wi" Not

Chris Bollwage
By Chris Bollwage
Mayor, City of Elizabeth
& League Past President
Woman reaching for @ sign with field ob stars behind her.
Innovative programs such as the WiFi pilot, will enable the City of Elizabeth to meet the evolving technological needs of individuals and businesses within our municipality.

Whether you are an employer, employee, student, or just a recreational Internet user, soon you will have free wireless access in the Wi-Fi pilot designated area when you visit the City of Elizabeth.

The Wi-Fi pilot program is part of the City of Elizabeth’s vision to maintain a level of excellence through increased efficiency and effectiveness, while improving the quality of life for its residents, visitors and businesses. Encompassing a total of 11.7 square miles, the City of Elizabeth is the fourth largest municipality in the State of New Jersey with a population of 125,809 according to the 2005 Census estimate. As the Union County seat, the city hosts numerous visitors throughout the year. Whether an individual’s purpose is educational, recreational, business, or to participate in governmental services, the City of Elizabeth is ready to enhance the quality of their visit.

With busier schedules, increased commutes, travel obligations, as well as additional commitments and responsibilities, individuals have even less time to accomplish more. Days and sometimes nights, that require individuals to be away from the office can result in work piled upon a desk and unreturned e-mails. In an effort to address these unavoidable absences from the office and increase productivity, the City of Elizabeth is offering this free service to help everyone stay connected.

In addition to improving time management, the Wi-Fi program will greatly enhance business attraction and retention. Restaurant or café patrons will now be able to work, communicate or surf the Internet while they enjoy their meal. With wireless accessibility, individuals can stay at their favorite café enjoying the wonderful food and comfortable atmosphere while increasing productivity. Wi-Fi will positively impact the municipality’s ability to attract economic development and enhance revitalization efforts, while increasing the success of existing businesses.

The program was initiated as a “valued-added” approach to customer service. In order to bring this pilot project to fruition, the city had to identify which locations would most effectively serve the potential users of the wireless service. Approximately two square blocks were identified as starting points for free access. The city streets where the pilot project will be initiated encompass one of the major throughways in Elizabeth.

Government buildings, small business and restaurants line these streets, which are bustling throughout the day and night. Located on these streets are the Elizabeth Public Library, Union County Courthouse, as well as the Union County Administration Building. In addition, the Historic Elizabeth Midtown Train Station and Elizabeth City Hall are adjacent to the proposed site area. The City of Elizabeth’s daytime population increases significantly due to individuals reporting for work, jury duty, school or recreational activities. It is a prime location to initiate this project because it will provide wireless services to the most individuals in a two-block radius.

Initiatives can only be as effective as their successful implementation. Therefore, the City of Elizabeth has entered into a public/private partnership with Kean University, the County of Union, WavHost Network and Nortel Network to realize this vision.

Dr. Dawood Farahi, President of Kean University, has worked on this program from its inception. “Technological advancements and specifically wireless services have changed the way we conduct business, learn and live our lives,” said Dr. Farahi. “This program will create improved educational access as well as encourage learning in a cost-effective environment.” Kean University will provide program support and technical assistance, as well as develop the Splash Page for the Wi-Fi project. The Splash Page will provide information regarding the initiative hosts as well as a location for the user of the service to log-in. Kean University will also have the capability to monitor the network on their campus.

In addition to Kean University, the County of Union has also been an important partner. “This exciting and free service will enhance our ability to communicate and remain connected outside of the office,” said Union County Freeholder Daniel P. Sullivan. “The County of Union supports the City of Elizabeth in this venture and looks forward to the future success of this program.”

In order to efficiently and effectively execute this technological initiative, the assistance and support of Nortel Networks and WavHost Networks was required. Nortel and WavHost were designated to provide equipment through use of state contract services and a Request For Qualifications (RFQ) respectively. WavHost will act as the Internet Service provider and Nortel will act as the additional hardware provider if the City of Elizabeth chooses to extend the current area designated for access. Transferring the signal along the two-block pilot area will require Access Points to be installed on traffic light or utility poles. The signal will then be transferred from each Access Point, thus providing wireless service in the area. Once the Access Points are mounted and set, they become active.

One of the most exciting aspects of this initiative is that the Wi-Fi area can be expanded through the addition of Access Points. Additional Access Points do not have to be placed in direct connection with existing ones. Stand-alone Access Points can also transfer information within an acceptable distance. This will enable municipalities to include core business districts, transportation hubs, or educational institutions located blocks away. It increases the versatility of the initiative and offers an array of opportunities for wireless inclusion.

Businesses will be able to increase their benefit from this initiative by installing Access Points and using the wireless connection as their primary Internet source.

If the pilot program is successful, businesses will further have the ability to install wireless cameras, which could transmit images to the Elizabeth Police and Fire Departments. This would enable emergency personnel to have live visual access to specific businesses and locations, enhancing their ability to address potential threats and situations, as well as providing critical information in the event of an emergency.

Thinking outside of the box is how municipalities need to operate in order to remain competitive. Innovative programs, such as the Wi-Fi pilot, will enable the City of Elizabeth to meet the evolving technological needs of individuals and businesses within our municipality. Through improved services and increased technological access, individuals who live, work and attend school in the City of Elizabeth will experience an enhanced quality of life.

Wireless municipalities are the wave of the future. The availability of instantaneous connection to communication and organizing devices, Internet and e-mail as you step onto the street is what residents and visitors are looking for—and the City of Elizabeth is ready to provide it.

 

y" class="style7"> Thinking outside of the box is how municipalities need to operate in order to remain competitive. Innovative programs, such as the Wi-Fi pilot, will enable the City of Elizabeth to meet the evolving technological needs of individuals and businesses within our municipality. Through improved services and increased technological access, individuals who live, work and attend school in the City of Elizabeth will experience an enhanced quality of life.

Wireless municipalities are the wave of the future. The availability of instantaneous connection to communication and organizing devices, Internet and e-mail as you step onto the street is what residents and visitors are looking for—and the City of Elizabeth is ready to provide it.

 

 

 

Article published in January 2007, New Jersey Municipalities

 

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