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Free wireless access in Nevada City?

Eileen JoyceMikail Graham folds an Apple AirPort and card Friday. The base unit and card can allow laptop users to wirelessly connect to the Internet. Graham hopes to put the AirPorts around Nevada City.
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The way Mikail Graham sees it, high-speed wireless access to the Internet should be available to all of downtown along Broad, Commercial and Spring streets in Nevada City.

It should be fast and free of charge, he said.

People who do not have high-speed Internet access at home could come downtown to get on line, he said.



“It’ll put our little town in a different light,” said Graham, a musician, musician-producer and high-tech consultant who made the suggestion to the Nevada City City Council recently.

All that’s needed are six to eight “nodes” – points of access that transmit and receive data – 2-foot tall antennas on six to eight strategically placed rooftops, and wireless-compatible computers, he said. The system would be connected to a digital subscriber line (DSL) or a T-1 line.




T-1 and a DSL lines are high-speed connections to the Internet. A T-1 line costs about $1,200 a month and is the fastest available today. By comparison, DSL connections usually cost less than $100 per month.

A laptop computer can be made wireless-compatible with a wireless card or a built-in system. For security, people will have to use firewalls – software programs that prevent hackers from accessing computers without users’ knowledge, Graham said.

The cost to install the system in Nevada City: about $15,000, said Graham and Kwong Chew, former president of Oronet Inc. in Grass Valley who now co-owns Asia at Cafe Mekka. Maintenance costs would be minimal, they said.

Businesses could pitch in to defray the initial and maintenance costs, and advertising could be sold to make the system pay for itself, Chew said.

Graham now wants to approach business owners, city officials and others to see if anyone is interested. If anyone is interested, the system could be installed in three weeks, Graham said.

Russ Steele, a high-tech consultant, said free and open access to the Internet for all citizens is good. The question is how to provide the service, how to recover the investment, and how to pay for the Internet service access charges.

“We certainly want an open Internet, but somebody has to pay for the connection,” he said.

Some airports, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, and institutions such as Dartmouth College offer wireless Internet access, according to “Wired” magazine.

“It’s happening very quickly,” said Gary Frankel, a software engineer who works out of his house off Ridge Road near Grass Valley. “It allows people to come and go.”

David Kotz, a computer science professor at Dartmouth, said the wireless network allows students, faculty and staff to do their computer-related work from nearly any location on the 200-acre campus.

“Students tell me that they can take their computer (and 88 percent of incoming students this year chose to buy a laptop, rather than a desktop) out of their dorm room if it’s too noisy or too distracting, and go to just any quiet place and still get their work done,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Union.

SBC Pacific Bell doesn’t provide DSL service everywhere; it has bypassed Lake Wildwood and other nearby areas.

Norbert Lima said his Nacc-tel Corp. of Yuba City will soon offer wireless, high-speed Internet access to residents in Lake Wildwood and the Penn Valley area. His company already serves several businesses, he said.

Oronet also offers wireless services in Nevada County. Starbucks coffee on Freeman Lane offers a wireless service to customers for a fee.


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