Where Is the Wi-Fi?

New Mexico community turns to wireless network builder to provide high-speed access.

Over the years, Intel has made a habit of building plants in relatively remote locations, New Mexico and Arizona among them. So what happens when the tech-savvy employees want high-speed Internet access at home?

Its not pretty, judging from the kind of pain that Intel CEO Craig Barrett has been feeling. When eWEEK Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist and I met with Barrett for a recent eWEEK Interview, he expressed considerable displeasure at the speed with which high-speed Internet access has been offered in his neighborhood.

That pain was felt in Rio Rancho, N.M., a fast-growing suburb of Albuquerque and an Intel bedroom community. To satisfy the high-speed needs of its approximately 6,500 Intel workers and other tech-savvy citizens, the Rio Rancho City Council recently approved Azulstar Networks, a division of Ottawa Wireless, as the service provider to build a 103-square-mile citywide Wi-Fi network. Rio Rancho announced its wireless Internet plans in June, but the deployment was placed on hold in August when the agreement with the original provider, Usurf America, fell apart.

/zimages/7/28571.gifRead more here about Rio Ranchos wireless plans.

"Were allowing them to install the access points. They have committed to cover the whole city," said Peggy McCarthy, assistant to the city administrator. The city will gain up to 7 percent of Azulstars profits. "Its like a cable franchise arrangement, only the license fee will come out of the companys profits," said McCarthy.

She said the slowness of DSL and cable providers in delivering high-speed Internet access to residents across Rio Rancho left the city of 63,000 to seek alternatives. McCarthy said some locations are so remote that they may never be served by DSL or cable. Azulstar will reach all locations, sometimes using a combination of wired and wireless links, she said. Other communities that many Intel employees call home, such as Folsom, Calif., and Chandler, Ariz., are also seeking citywide Wi-Fi network service, McCarthy said.

Azulstar got started in Grand Haven, Mich., where it built a municipal Wi-Fi network, according to company founder Tyler van Houwelingen, who said Azulstar is now bidding on several other countywide and citywide Wi-Fi networks. The biggest obstacle so far? "Trees are a huge problem," van Houwelingen said, recalling the Michigan build-out. He expects the relatively treeless New Mexico to be more hospitable.

Out and about

Hewlett-Packard signed a seven-year deal worth $100 million with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide to build a new global reservation system that will be managed by HP. Starwood said it anticipates saving $15 million to $20 million annually by having HP build and manage the system for its 750 hotels worldwide. The reservation system will be built on HP Superdome 9000 and ProLiant servers running HP-UX and Linux. Joe Hogan, vice president of marketing for worldwide managed services at HP, said it will be easy for the hotel chain to expand its computing infrastructure by adding blade servers when Starwood builds or acquires new hotels.

Tom Conophy, executive vice president and CTO of Starwood, said the main reason for going with HP over incumbent IBM was that HP was willing to let Starwood retain its intellectual property in the new reservation system, while IBM was not willing to relinquish IP rights. The HP deal punctuates a move away from an IBM MVS 3090 mainframe toward J2EE-based distributed applications, according to Conophy.

In the meantime, while most people look on compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act as a thankless chore, Mark Wilbert, vice president of information services at Land OLakes, in St. Paul, Minn., found it helpful in getting a revamped corporate disaster recovery plan off the ground. "Sarbanes-Oxley has raised visibility and priority in our organization," Wilbert said. Land OLakes signed with HP for a remote data center hot site as well as a disaster recovery facility for 300 office workers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Wilbert said he saved enough on the hot-site deal to pay for the network used in the disaster recovery system. Such a deal, and without Sarbanes-Oxley, it might not have happened.

Stan Gibson can be reached at stan_gibson@ziffdavis.com.

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