After learning that the “test area” of the Milwaukee Wireless Initiative project had been successfully implemented as of last Saturday, the 7th of July, I decided to see for myself this afternoon just how good the coverage in the area was.
As you may know, the “test area” of the project is basically a rectangle that is bound by I-43 on the East, highway 45 on the West, Vliet St on the North, and Wisconsin Ave. on the South. This area is to serve as a testing area to presumably work out the bugs in the system while the rest of the city is outfitted with the infrastructure that will enable true city-wide wireless Internet connectivity.
On today’s drive home from work (East side to West side of Milwaukee) I thought I’d see for myself how good the coverage of the test area was. I flipped open my MacBook Pro and took my normal route home on Highland Ave, which runs East to West and almost right down the middle of the “test area”, stopping in the middle of every block from I-43 (13th Street) to 40th Street. While unscientific in nature, at every stop I shut down the airport on my laptop, enabled it, and would wait at least 10 seconds for it to find a signal before moving on.
I’m sad and dismayed to report that only once along that route – the first stop on 13th and Highland – and among those 25+ stops was I able to even get a signal from the “Milwaukee Wi-Fi” wireless network. When I tried to connect to the network, I was presented with an error message that there was a problem in connecting to the network.
There were plenty of other wireless networks to join along Highland Ave., most of them baring the default names like “linksys” and “belkin”, but I couldn’t get another signal on my Macbook Pro for the Milwaukee Wireless Initiative test area, which the company charged with building out has claimed to be “complete”, anywhere on Highland Ave. from 14th Street to 40th – basically the middle of the test area.
My primary concern here is that Midwest Fiber Networks still hasn’t completed the build out of the test area for the Milwaukee Wireless Initiative which they were given an extension to complete by last Saturday, July 7th. If that were the case, and they were publicly stating they were in compliance with the terms of their contract when in fact they aren’t, that would be a very serious matter.
I’d love to be wrong. I’d love to find out that the “test area” network was in fact shut down for some reason today. I’d love to be told I’m mistaken and some technical glitch prevented my otherwise fully functional laptop from finding a network signal. I have to accept however, that nothing was wrong and the test area network either isn’t fully completed or isn’t fully functional. Either way, that’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed before this project is allowed to proceed.
I plan on doing a similar test tomorrow going towards downtown along Wisconsin Ave. to see if the problems I ran into were limited to Highland Ave or perhaps the time of day. But if someone with a top of the line laptop can’t get a signal from this network in the middle of each of 25+ blocks in the middle of the test area – where the signal should be strongest – then I don’t know how those citizens who don’t have top of the line equipment are supposed to access a resource that’s being built for their benefit.
I’ll have more tomorrow.