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City wi-fi service expands

Google has contributed slightly more than $86,000 to extend the tentacles of the free wi-fi system even farther in The Dalles.

Nolan Young, city manager, said the high-tech service will soon be available inside the Civic Auditorium, at Quinton Street Ball Park, Kelly Viewpoint and west on Sixth Street from Webber Street to Chenoweth Loop Road.

“The fiber was there for the Civic so we can install wi-fi pretty easily, which will be beneficial, but the system is primarily for outdoor use in the commercial and industrial areas of the city,” he said. “It is there so people can check their email, check coupons before they go into a store and those kinds of things.”

Young said Google’s contribution to wi-fi services since the program was initiated in 2011 is now close to $250,000. He said Q-Life, the intergovernmental organization that runs the fiber-optic loop in The Dalles, has contributed almost $100,000.

The work to install equipment and get the system up and running in the new locations is being done by Gorge Networks. Service to the Civic is expected to be completed within the next couple of months and at the ball park by spring 2014.

Within the next six months, Young said wi-fi at Kelly Viewpoint and the western end of Sixth Street will be operable.

He said there are places in the network where the signal is weaker and work is being done to improve the system in those areas.

“We are doing some trouble shooting to make sure these spots get easier to use,” he said.

Devices to expand the free internet cloud have been installed on light poles along Brewery Grade, which has benefitted the Marina and Riverfront Park.

Infrastructure for the service also includes placement of more than 50 antennas around town, each two to three feet tall and mounted on private and public buildings, as well as streetlights.

Earlier this year, Sorosis Park was covered, as are other larger city parks, the downtown area, thecommercial district east of Webber Street, the Discovery Center to the west and Kramer Field off Webber Street. Services are also available at One Health Center (formerly La Clinica del Carino) building in The Dalles and Columbia Basin Care Center.

Google initiated the wifi program by providing the city with a $130,000 grant in 2011 to cover equipment and installation costs. The city then went through the public bidding process to select Gorge Networks to perform the work. Q-life also contributed $10,000 for installation of the fiber and $7,000 for the initial study. During the last two years, the city has compiled a priority list for likely expansion and Google has provided the funding. Per an agreement with Google, the system must be free for at least three years. After that point, the future of the system will be decided by the city.

In March, Young said the intent of the city is to continue with free public wi-fi for a portion of the system, although there may be some “value-added elements” in the future.

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