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12/15/2005 - HotZone Growth Slated for City

Over the last five years, the City of Spokane has built all of the networks for its facilities from the ground up. All of the planning was done ‘in house’ by Joel Hobson, Network Services Manager, and his staff. Building on the city’s extensive fiber network (with Cat-6 wiring throughout city hall) the networks support voice, video, and data. All the telephones are VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Of the more than sixty facility sites around Spokane, 80% are on fiber and the other 20% are on networks provided commercially by 180 Networks.

With the basic connectivity groundwork in place, when the police department petitioned to be able to have officers create and send reports from their cars, the creation of “hot spots” was reasonably simple. Hot zones, using the city’s fiber for backhaul, were set up around the city, and officers used these for reporting from their cars.

Hoopfest, the world’s largest three-on-three basketball tournament, went entirely wireless in 2003. After it was over, Hobson and others contrived to keep the Vivato panels that had been mounted on City Hall permanently in place. Partnerships were formed, and the result was the SpokaneHotZonesm. Spokane’s one hundred-block wireless downtown area was “switched on” with much fanfare on Wednesday, June 23, 2004. Now Spokane is expanding the “Hot Zone” and plans to ultimately cover the entire city.

Again, the Police Department, using Homeland Security Grant funding, is the impetus behind the expansion. The work will be done in phases as resources become available. Phase 1 was the 100-block downtown hot zone. Phase two will be coverage from the North Division Y. Phase three will be the “Public Safety portal from the Public Safety campus to the city maintenance shops with routers all along Boone Avenue.

Phase four will bring in the Sprague Avenue corridor, and any portion of Division that has not been covered. The Department of Transportation will be a partner for this phase, and will tie it into the I-90 corridor. More partnerships have been formed for granting of the use of roof tops for more Vivato panels.

A separate operation will include the addition of the U-District, including the Riverpoint and Gonzaga campuses, into the downtown Hot Zone. “This will bring the U-district into the core of Spokane,” says Hobson.

The city-wide wireless network will help bridge the digital divide, according to Hobson. With wireless, connectivity can be made available easily and affordably to the less affluent sections of the city. This will make more educational resources available to all residents. “We are really a digital community, and I am proud to be part of it,” says Hobson. “We have ‘last mile’ resources in place, research projects available, and now we can bridge the digital divide.” Hobson also hopes to build and host a regional portal for real and easily accessed regional information.

The SpokaneHotZonesm partners at this time are: City of Spokane, OneEighty Networks, Vivato, Itronix, Downtown Spokane Partnership, Purcell Systems, Miller, WhiteRunkle, Bank of America, Doubletree City Center, Kiemle & Hagood, and Washington Mutual Bank.

Billie Moreland
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