Concord is considering installing a citywide wireless Internet network — again — by hiring a employees from the now-defunct company that worked on the city's last attempt at such a network two years ago.
But this time, Uncle Sam, not banner advertisements, would foot the bill. And the system would be designed primarily for use by police officers and other government employees, not the public.
The idea is in its early stages. The city may hire Link Path Communications to do an initial study and write the grant application. Federal stimulus money would pay for the project — if the city hires the consultant and the grant application is approved.
Link Path Communications is composed of former employees of MetroFi, which in 2007 installed a wireless network that covered much of the city. That network, which was open to anyone and had banner ads, was disassembled in 2008.
Now, with stimulus money providing grants for expanding wireless Internet coverage, Concord hopes to make use of the work MetroFi did.
In the coming weeks, the City Council will vote on whether to pay $35,000 for Link Path Communications to do the grant application. That's substantially less than it would cost for another consultant who did not have access to the technical studies done by MetroFi, said Ron Puccinelli, head of Concord's information technology department.
"We don't have to spend all that money (for initial studies) again,"
The main benefit would be for the Police Department, he said. Officers' in-car computers currently use Sprint Internet cards to access their databases and, for example, find information on a license plate number.
But that technology is slower than the wireless network would be, Puccinelli said. And it is prone to quit working during catastrophes because the system can be overwhelmed by calls and messages from the public.
If the network is installed, police would still have the Sprint cards as a backup, he said, so if either system went down police could still get the information they needed.
Initially, the system would be open only to government employees, Puccinelli said. At a City Council committee meeting, Mayor Laura Hoffmeister and Vice Mayor Guy Bjerke asked that city staff members look at how the network could be opened to the public.
They also asked for more information about how much the system would cost to maintain.
The Wi-Fi network would have 40 access points per square mile over the city's 18 square miles, for a total of about 700 access points, according to a presentation by Lee Hambro, Link Path's general manager. That is slightly more access points than MetroFi used; that network had 32 access points per square mile.
Bjerke and Hoffmeister both said they supported the grant application.
"I'm all for Concord competing," Bjerke said.
Reach Paul Thissen at 925-943-8163.