Jacksonville gets a free swing at testing wireless Web connection

Jacksonville gets a free swing at testing wireless Web connection

'This is a part of our long-term strategy,' said Libby Clapp, Jacksonville CIO. 'The partnership provided us with a chance to test out the technology at no cost to us.'

The Jacksonville, Fla., government is piloting a wireless Internet connection for residents and visitors as part of a $2.2 billion economic development plan. The wireless system, at the city's Landing waterfront area, is the beginning of a potential citywide network.

'This is a part of our long-term strategy,' said Libby Clapp, Jacksonville CIO. 'The partnership provided us with a chance to test out the technology at no cost to us.'

The City Council signed a partnership agreement with Connexsys Inc. of Jacksonville and BellSouth Corp. to provide the wireless technology and Web connections for the next two years at no cost to the city.

'We are looking at wireless as a potential solution, and we didn't want to make the commitment without testing it first,' Clapp said.

Net connect

Users in the riverfront neighborhood who have a computer or other wireless device running a 1995 or later operating system can connect to the Internet through the IEEE 802.11b protocol.

Most notebooks and personal digital assistants, except those from Palm Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., adhere to this protocol. But Palm is coming out with a PDA that supports the protocol.

Connexsys set up the system, which includes antennas built around the Landing and a T1 line from BellSouth into Connexsys' server, which runs Linux. A wireless device using the IEEE 802.11b, or WiFi, protocol searches for the signal, and antennas transmit it to Connexsys' server, which returns an IP address to connect to the city's Internet portal at www.jaxwiz.org. Once that connection completes, the user links to the Web.

Clapp said Connexsys used a Perl script to push the wireless devices to the Web site.

In the first six days of service, 140 people were connected, Clapp added. She also said the city plans to expand the use of wireless.

'I don't know of any other large city with a public-private partnership for wireless Internet connection like ours,' Clapp said.

'We really haven't found any problems with the system except a few of the devices residents were trying to use didn't meet the wireless standards. But we are very pleased with the security of the system and how it works so far.'

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