The challenges of implementing a citywide WIFI plan in El Paso

EL PASO, Texas - A local internet provider said a citywide WIFI plan could be logistically challenging.

"Some of the challenges of municipal WIFI is basically having a really dense footprint for WIFI so having lots of buildings, poles, street lamps; that kind of thing with wireless antennas on them," said Mike Scott, President of Webatron. Webatron, a local company, provides internet service and IT support to commercial and residential customers throughout El Paso County.

The company boasts a more personalized, attentive service than huge corporations such as AT&T.

Scott says providing that dense connectivity is key for effective, public WIFI.

El Paso ISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera has started meetings with the City of El Paso and other local government agencies to determine the feasibility of citywide WIFI.

EPISD owns more than 100 buildings throughout the City, each equipped with WIFI.  His goal is for EPISD to expand service, in part, utilizing the City's Digital El Paso WIFI service available in Downtown El Paso.

Scott said a private-public partnership with subsidies for the poor may also be a sensible option.

"In other parts of the country, there's been some successes, there's been some failures and then there's been some kind of co-ops so city or county governments will go to a local provider and maybe allow them access to their street poles."

If the WIFI is entirely public and free, Scott said it may affect his bottom line. "We would probably lose some customers depending on what the city or (other agencies) are going to offer as far as bandwidth."

Scott said if the free service has limitations on bandwidth and video streaming, like watching NetFlix, some customers will still choose to pay for internet services.

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