July 30, 2008

Wireless Partnership Could Give Greater Access to Subscribers

By Daniel McDonald, The Union-Recorder, Milledgeville, Ga.

Jul. 30--Milledgeville's wired future may become even more connected if a proposed partnership between the city's prospective service provider and Sprint Nextel comes to fruition.

Clearwire, the company Milledgeville tapped to facilitate buildout of the city's municipal wireless Internet network, has entered into agreements to join with Sprint to create the first national mobile broadband network using Wi-Max technology. The partnership will mean greater access for Wi-Max service subscribers by providing access to more markets across the country as each company will open its network spectrum to the other's customers.

Milledgeville City Planner Russell Thompson said consumers who subscribe to the municipal wireless network in Milledgeville will have more options for taking wireless Internet access with them as they travel. Clearwire currently provides wireless service in 46 markets.

For Milledgeville, though, the proposed partnership could mean some delay in the deployment of the city's municipal wireless network as the companies' arrangement is reviewed through an approval process administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Federal Communications Commission must approve spectrum license assignments and transfers. The companies will transfer some portions of their licensed wireless spectrums to facilitate the buildout of the Broadband Wi-Max network, a joint press release detailing the proposed partnership stated. Federal approval for the partnership is expected to take about two months, or until about mid-September.

Thompson said the expected date for the city's Wi-Max to go into operation is anytime between June 30, 2009, and Oct. 31, 2009.

The reason for the October date is because the timing of project completion is dependent on the partnership being approved by the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission.

"When we talk about the Department of Justice, we wanted to allow extra time in case there is a back up," Thompson said. "We put the October date in our presentation because that is a time Clearwire said they were comfortable with."

Milledgeville's forthcoming municipal wireless network is the product of an $862,000 grant from the Georgia Technology Authority through the Wireless Communities Georgia program. Milledgeville is one of several municipalities across the state to receive grant money to help facilitate a wireless Internet network to help encourage economic development, educational access more efficient government service.


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