Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

May 4, 2014

TC, Leland join wired communities

TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City and the Leland harbor are joining the villages of Empire and Kalkaska in the web of wired communities.

“That was our biggest complaint at the harbor year after year,” said Leland Harbor Master Russell Dzuba. “I glean this information from different websites and blogs, and the biggest dissatisfaction here is Wi-Fi service.”

Dzuba said the harbor’s current Internet system doesn’t reach all the slips, especially when big boats get in the way. He hopes to get the new system running in June.

Boaters will be allowed to use the harbor’s Wi-Fi for free, and Dzuba said nearby businesses, residents and visitors will pay fees for use. The model should help residents get away from expensive contracts with big companies and attract visitors used to fast, plentiful connections.

Traverse City is taking a different spin on the web. The city’s network would be complementary but only reach users outside downtown and in the open space, while Empire and Kalkaska’s systems reach inside buildings and charge user fees after brief complementary periods. Traverse City Light & Power Executive Director Tim Arends said the outdoor-only system would allow businesses attracting customers with free wireless Internet to continue doing so, and the more the city used it for government operation the more cost-effective it would be.

“Really, the complementary Wi-Fi is the aside benefit,” Arends said.

Traverse City and Leland will immediately contract with private companies, unlike Empire and Kalkaska, which started out operating their own systems.

Those communities’ Internet independence didn’t last. Empire sold to Aspen Wireless last year, and Kalkaska may soon relinquish its system, called Kal-Fi, to ATI Networks, Inc.

Private companies know the tech-heavy business and can keep up with the growing and changing demands of Internet users, said Jim Selby, president of Aspen Wireless, the company contracting with Empire, Leland and Traverse City.

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