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Equipment to give downtown free wireless internet coming this month



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August 08, 2012 - After nearly 18 months of waiting and waiting, it appears the equipment necessary for the Frankenmuth-based Air Advantage to provide free wireless internet service to downtown Oxford will finally arrive later this month.

That's according to the latest status update provided to village officials by Oakland County.

"They've completed installation on the (wireless) tower that they believe will provide the . . . main internet pipe for the downtown Oxford hotspot, and have ordered the equipment that will be installed on your building downtown. They expect to receive the equipment in about two weeks," wrote Tammi Shepherd, chief of Land Management Technologies for the county, in an Aug. 3 e-mail to village Manager Joe Young.

A wireless access point will be placed atop the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum, located at 1 N. Washington St., which is owned by the village.

This device, which measures 18 inches in length and 14 inches in width, will provide free wireless internet service to the downtown area.

The signal will reach a radius of approximately 0.25 to 0.4 mile away from where the device is placed. The unit will provide speeds of up to 2 megabytes per user.

"The actual range and speed of the wireless internet service will vary based on obstructions, signal level and type of network card," according to the telecommunications license agreement between the county and Air Advantage.

"We will look to schedule the signal test once the equipment arrives," Shepherd wrote. "That should put us in the last half of August, and then based on the success of that test and completing appropriate administrative reviews, permits and approvals we'll schedule a final install."

Downtown Oxford's been waiting for this promised service for a long time now.

Back in February 2011, the county announced that Air Advantage which currently provides high-speed internet service to Michigan's thumb area was going to bring free wireless internet to the historic downtown areas in Oxford, Clarkston and Holly by fall of that year.

In a September 2011 interview with the Leader, David Simmet, vice president of operations for Air Advantage, clarified that "we've defined fall as being all the way up into the official winter season."

The deal was Air Advantage gets access to strategically-placed, county-owned radio towers in order to expand its coverage area and customer base, and in return, select downtown areas are supposed to receive free wireless internet service.

However, in order to provide downtown Oxford with service, Air Advantage had to get its equipment affixed to a privately-owned wireless tower located approximately 3 miles north of the village.

The 285-foot wireless tower, located at 2255 Metamora Road, is owned by American Tower, a company headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.

In February 2012, Simmet sent Young an e-mail indicating free internet service should be available by June.

"At this time, Air Advantage has a fully executed lease on the American Tower north of Oxford," Simmet wrote. "This will be the tower that we use to feed the downtown area with internet."

"I would like to say that the downtown area will be done no later than the June time-frame, but it depends on us securing the NTP on this tower," he noted in that February e-mail.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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