Source: Sherman Publications

High-speed wireless coming downtown

by Don Rush

September 07, 2011

For those who love to walk, sit, eat, talk and do everything connected to the world wide web, last Thursday marked a day that is good for you. On that morning, representatives from Oakland County, the City of the Village of Clarkston and a high-speed wireless company met downtown. Why? To figure out where to place equipment so downtown can offer free-wireless internet, “before the snow flies” this year.

“We looking for vertical real estate,” said Dave Simmet, vice president of operations for Air Advantage. Air Advantage has partnered with the county to provide free internet for the downtown Clarkston.

According to Simmet, Air Advantage will mount equipment from the water tower at I-75 and Sashabaw Road that will transmit internet signals to downtown Clarkston. The signal will be dispersed by the equipment to be placed downtown before the fall. Air Advantage, of Frankenmuth, provides high speed, wireless internet service to Michigan's thumb area and plans to provide competitively-priced broadband services to the northern and western areas of Oakland County. As part of the Wireless Oakland initiative, Air Advantage will have access to the county's strategically placed radio towers in order to expand its customer base.

Wireless Oakland was an initiative County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced in 2005. Wireless Oakland was to provide free-wireless internet (WiFi) in a public-sector/private-sector partnership, where the county would let an internet provider use the county's strategically-placed radio towers to provide subscriber-based premium internet service in exchange for providing free basic service. In May of 2007, seven communities, Birmingham, Madison Heights, Oak Park, Pontiac, Wixom, Royal Oak and Troy, where chosen to to get the free service.

In 2008, the economy started to tank in Michigan and soon it was reported that the private-sector partner, MichTel Communications was “unable to secure funding” for the project. The project's plug was pulled. Flash forward to the past February. In his State-of-The-County Address, Patterson announced a new, pared-down WiFi initiative, with three communities being the first wired-up, Clarkton, Oxford and Holly.

According to Simmet, as soon as the site in downtown Clarkston is secured, the next step is the hard part, going through county and local permit process. If all goes as planned the system should be up and running by this fall.