City sticks toe in wireless water


The Mirror

After receiving approval from the City Council faster than expected, Federal Way officials have started a pilot project that will determine whether the city could feasibly act as a wireless service provider for city government, businesses and residents.

City officials had planned to wait until March 15 to make a final decision on wi-fi, but decided to give the go-ahead early to meet a grant timeline and avoid an installation delay of up to four months attributed to the growing popularity of the service.

The city had on hand a $100,000 grant to provide the Police Department with wireless service. The council augmented the grant with another $250,000 to expand the study to include businesses and residents.

When it’s finished, the pilot project will tell the city how much it will cost to be a wi-fi service provider, where to place the access points throughout the city and whether there’s a base of support for the service in Federal Way.

With wireless technology, users install a wireless card in their laptops and have mobile access to the Internet or communications networks as long as they’re within the umbrella of coverage provided by access points throughout the area.

The service is frequently offered in coffee shops and libraries and has become popular among commuters, business people and students.

The city’s management services director, Mehdi Sadri, said information technology workers are drafting a project design and talking with vendors to figure out the best way to connect the service and where to install the access points — whether to put them in exclusively residential areas, in exclusively business areas or in a mixture of both.

So far, the plan is to acquire 25 fixed access points and up to five mobile ones to send and receive the wireless signal to City Hall, which will serve as the nerve center for connecting users to city communications or the Internet. Officials also will consider whether the city needs to install more copper or fiber optic wire to make sure signals get to City Hall.

According to plans, the pilot project’s public safety element will cover a one-square-mile area, with an extended area of four square miles. The public access element will cover two square miles, blanketing 5,000 homes, businesses, office parks and public spaces, with an extended area of five square miles, which includes another 12,000 homes.

“Hopefully, based on the data we get, we can identify what direction expansions should be,” Sadri said. “We’ve already had a lot of interest from West Campus.”

The pilot project is expected to be rolled out this September.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565,

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