Jeramey Jannene

Partnership Bringing Low-Cost, Cellular Internet Service to Lindsay Heights

New service relies on neighborhood-level cell network. Could eventually cover 40% of Milwaukee.

By - Sep 10th, 2021 12:15 pm
Homes along N. 17th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Homes along N. 17th St. in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A partnership between two nonprofits aims to take a new approach to bring low-cost, high-speed internet service to an underserved Milwaukee neighborhood.

Walnut Way Conservation Corp. is partnering with PCs for People to bring broadband, wireless internet service to Lindsay Heights.

The service does not rely on traditional wireless networking (WiFi) technology, but instead a longer-range cellular service.

A transponder on Walnut Way’s Innovations and Wellness Commons, 1609-1617 W. North Ave., will offer wireless service within a one-mile area for those using a special modem. No wiring changes will need to be made to homes, aside from connecting the modem to a computer.

The new, prepaid service will cost $15 per month and offer download speeds of up to 50 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 10 megabits per second.

Project representatives briefed the Common Council’s Public Works Committee Thursday on the effort.

“It’s basically like the cellular service you get from AT&T or Verizon, except it’s private,” said city chief information officer David Henke of the technology. The service relies on LTE technology.

Henke said the city is seeking a state grant to expand the service to cover 40% of the city with the technology.

“We are excited to grow more because we know there is certainly plenty of need in the community,” said PCs for People chief innovation officer Bryan Mauk. A city report says 25% of Milwaukee households lack at-home access to high-speed internet.

The organization started in 1998 as a provider of refurbished computers to low-income households and reports having provided 130,000 computers. Its offerings have grown to include internet service. Microsoft is sponsoring its Milwaukee project.

Alderman Robert Bauman asked if the nonprofit was in competition with Spectrum and other internet service providers.

“Competition is a strong word,” said Mauk. “Our general strategy is not to replace them, but to supplement them… We are interested in the communities that are left behind and those are who we want to serve.”

The effort builds on the 2018 installation and 2021 upgrade of free WiFi service at Fondy Park, 2200 W. Fond du Lac Ave. Because of limitations with WiFi technology, that service is accessible only when at or near the property.

The Public Works Committee unanimously recommended approval of a lease agreement to allow additional transponders to be placed on Milwaukee Fire Department stations at 1313 W. Reservoir Ave. (Fire Station 5) and 2903 N. Teutonia Ave. (Fire Station 30). PCs for People will also be able to connect to the city’s fiberoptic network.

Categories: Tech, Weekly

One thought on “Partnership Bringing Low-Cost, Cellular Internet Service to Lindsay Heights”

  1. rbeverly132 says:

    “Alderman Robert Bauman asked if the nonprofit was in competition with Spectrum and other internet service providers.” Spectrum could use some competition. They basically have a monopoly on broadband in many areas where AT&T coverage is limited to painfully slow DSL. Both carnivores charge accordingly. Eventually, broadband Internet will become a public utility, as it is now as essential as electricity, natural gas and water. Municipalities need to get involved. Wake up, Legislature!

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