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Beaches group hears Wi-Fi idea

Published May 1, 2005

MADEIRA BEACH - Wi-Fi could be coming to the beach.

At Wednesday's Barrier Islands Governmental Council meeting, a local businessman made a pitch to elected city officials from 11 beach cities that Wi-Fi could help save lives during emergencies.

Wi-Fi, short for wireless fidelity, provides Internet access without modems, networks or cables. That means, as long as a Wi-Fi "hot spot" is available, people can hook up just about anywhere.

In his 30-minute presentation, Larry Karisny, president and director of ProjectSafety/SmarTown, explained that technology could be used to create a "dual-use public/private wireless radio broadband network."

It would be built on existing infrastructure shared by the public and private sectors, such as street lights, light posts and gas stations. The radios are unobstructive - some measure 1 foot tall and 1 inch wide - so they could also be mounted on the sides of houses or on commercial buildings, Karisny said during an interview Friday.

He said current communications and emergency systems are largely battery-powered, making them ineffective during emergencies. The radios, both solar- and battery-powered, would create an "indestructible wireless network," he said.

"When you look at a disaster situation, they can drop these radios from parachutes. ... You'd have an emergency network, immediately," Karisny said.

The radios would link two radio channels together: public safety and transportation. During emergencies, people would still have Internet access, but it would slow down because emergency officials would have priority, Karisny said Friday.

He asked those at the meeting to consider:

letting ProjectSafety take inventory of the beaches' communication, shared governmental and private sector assets for the Wi-Fi network.

sending a letter endorsing the use of the beach communities as a test area for the radios.

helping promote Wi-Fi to the business community and pursuing grant money to make it happen.

making a formal proclamation supporting ProjectSafety in these goals.

Despite the benefits he touted, council members said they needed to take the matter back to their respective cities to see if they wanted to support it.

[Last modified April 30, 2005, 23:59:18]

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