Wireless Mesh Networks in Morgantown

10 Feb

The Neighborhood Coordinating Council meets every second Monday of each month to discuss the various concerns that community residents would like addressed in the municipal government. The meeting on Feb. 9 brought up many topics of discussion. Everything from litter on the rail trail to public safety concerns were brought up in the meeting. The one interesting thing that brought my attention was something I had no clue was going on in the city. The city is currently working on something called a wireless mesh network.

“Were working with a company that is going to be providing us a pilot project to establish a municipal level wireless system. Hopefully, within the next few years it will be across the city,” said Jeff Mikorski, city manager of the Morgantown area. So what is this technology exactly? The Federal Communications Commission has allowed various municipalities to use the absent analog airwaves that broadcast networks used for information transmission to the public. The mesh wireless network can run on these absent airwaves and allow the use of wifi and radio connectivity for the public departments, like the fire and police departments. It is basically like the city’s own iCloud. For more information visit open-mesh.com.

The pilot project will consist of two test areas for this new piece of technology to see how it does in the public forum. According to Mikorski, the two test areas are those that need this type of thing the most. The first pilot area will be the Morgantown airport near the Mileground. “Right now we have very little wifi connectivity for passengers coming in or going out of the airport,” Mikorski said. Not only would municipal personnel be able to utilize this network for emergency services, but the public can simply use this piece of technology for devices that can connect to wifi.

The second pilot area would be downtown; from the top of Willey Street to the bottom of Walnut Street, and across from Chestnut to Spruce.

“The first phase of the pilot project is to get up the responders and test them out. Then get some cameras up and see how it works. Then once we get all the bugs worked out we are going to continue to expand to ultimately cover the whole city,” Mikorski said.

With the continuation of funds going into this project, this wireless mesh network is becoming more and more of a reality. The funds are coming directly from the general funds of the city. With the help of other companies and West Virginia University, the project to set up wireless mesh network across the city would be cheaper. Mikorski pointed out that the city has already even put more money in the budget for this project. Hopefully, if everything runs smoothly, the two pilot areas will be outfitted with the mesh network by mid-July.

What excites me so much about this project is that Morgantown would be following in the foot steps of big cities like San Francisco www6.sfgov.org, by providing wifi hotspots in public forums. You wouldn’t have to go into a cafe or restaurant just to connect to the internet. The hotspot could be outdoors on your favorite park bench. This is what the future looks like. Free wifi for everyone.

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