BRYAN FAUST/Herald Photo

Downtown Madison took a big step toward citywide wireless access Monday with the implementation of its first wireless transmitter near the Capitol Square. The network aims to be operational by March.
City officials and representatives from Cellnet, the project utility networking company, joined together as the transmitter was mounted onto a traffic light at the Main Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard intersection.

"Today, we had a ceremonial mounting of the transmitter … We’re moving forward in a concrete way," George Twigg, spokesperson for the mayor said.

Those who attended the ceremony included Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Cellnet Chief Information Officer Louis Kek, Dane County Board Chairman Scott McDonell and Ald. Zach Brandon, District 7.

Cellnet local spokeswoman Eve Galanter said the transmitter will provide a one-mile radius connection. When the network, now named Mad City Broadband, launches it will cover the downtown and the majority of the campus area, she added.

"The city of Madison was once named the 'Most Wired City,'" she said.

"We hope that we will be the 'most wireless city' sometime soon."

In addition, Twigg said Internet access on the transmitter will be free for over a month, as Cellnet evaluates the efficiency of the connection.

"Right now [Cellnet is] in the process, seeing if they’re performing as well as they should be," he said.

The evaluation phase will also allow users to decide if they want to
use the service, according to Brandon.

"It’s good to have a trial period, especially with new technology," he said. "It’s convenient and people will have the opportunity to test it."

The Monday ceremony began with remarks from Cieslewicz, who, according to Galanter, "talked about his hope to bring wireless to Madison."

After Cieslewicz spoke, technicians used a "bucket truck" to mount the transmitter on the signal light.

According to Brandon, the installation of the wireless network will only reinforce the high quality of life in Madison.

"It’s a good start," he said. "It’s important for Madison, and it will allow us to remain competitive, not only locally, but nationally."

The first phase will also extend coverage westward to Highland Avenue, eastward to the Yahara River and southward to the Beltline Highway, and will additionally provide a wireless connection at the Dane County Airport and the Alliant Energy Center, Galanter said.

"The importance is that any local Internet company will be able to use the network," she said. "It’s not exclusive and everyone can have it; your ability to get on the Internet won’t stop at the front door."

Galanter also emphasized the importance of the network's future growth.

"It’s very exciting for Cellnet to move quickly and efficiently," she added. "It is for the benefit of Mad City Broadband to grow as extensively as it can."

Twigg echoed Galanter's sentiments, adding the installation is a
"milestone" for the city.

"It’ll hopefully be a real benefit for Madisonians," he said. "Students of the younger generation have a high expectation to stay connected wherever they are."