Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Sept. 23, 2002

Winsted looks to Chaska for wireless Internet service

By Julie Yurek

In order to gather more information on the subject of Internet access, the Winsted City Council took in a presentation by the City of Chaska about a wireless Internet option at Winsted's meeting Tuesday.

Representing the City of Chaska was Brad Mayer. The council asked Mayer questions about the process and cost involved.

Though no council action was needed, since it was a presentation, council member Tom Ollig suggested forming a committee of two council members, City Administrator Brent Mareck, and others to look into the Internet options available to Winsted and report back its findings to the council at a later date.

Mayor Don Guggemos suggested getting a few business people involved on the committee, which the council agreed with.

To begin his presentation Mayer gave the council some background information.

The City of Chaska has offered the Internet for about four years, and in the last nine months has added a wireless system to help provide service, Mayer said.

Chaska saw a need in the schools and businesses, he added.

The city looked at its options at the time, which was a dial-up network that is cheap but slow, or a T-1 line that is fast but expensive.

The wireless system helped push service out to more cities, while bringing the cost down, Mayer said.

The technology is based on line-of-sight system, Mayer said.

"We realized there was a need for this service," he said. "We got into providing Internet service in Chaska simply to help provide a service that was unattainable for mid-sized businesses."

Chaska's clients include Chanhassen, Victoria, Waconia, and Norwood Young America.

The City of Chaska has an interest in coming out and helping Winsted with this service," he said.

If Winsted is interested, Chaska would put a couple of antennas on the water tower, which would provide service to the city and businesses, he said.

"What kind of timeframe would this take?" Guggemos asked.

If everything is approved and things move along quickly, it'd be in around the end of October, or possibly sooner, Mayer speculated. "It goes pretty quickly once we get the ball rolling."

"Once the antenna is up in a city, client sites can go up days after," he said.

"What are the costs of the client sites?" asked Ollig.

There are two different packages or tiers for the wireless service, Mayer said.

Tier one is low end service that focuses on small home office users or small business with five to 10 users, with services starting at $100 per month and topping out at $140 per month.

The next tier focuses on users that have 20 or more users, are running their own web server, or are transferring large files, Mayer said.

Both tiers both run from 256k connection up to one-and-a-half meg, which is equivalent to a T-1, he explained.

To run at 256k in the top tier package costs about $250 per month, and to run one-and-a-half meg is $650 a month, he stated.

Setup fees vary from $1,200 to $1,600, but with a three-year contract Chaska would waive that setup fee, Mayer added.

Chaska would also keep ownership of antennas and equipment, making it easier to take responsibility for upgrades on equipment, and replacing any equipment that fails at no charge, he said.

"We try to meet as many needs as possible and stay competitive," Mayer said.

Ollig wanted to know what the expenses are to Winsted.

"There is really only one expense to the city, which is the cost of the antenna that would sit on the city hall building for about $1,100," he said.

Chaska would install the antenna and equipment on the water tower free of charge, and the city offices would have free Internet services for three years, he added.

After three years, if three or more business clients have joined the service, Winsted would have free Internet as long as the system is operational, according to Mayer.

If four or more businesses come "aboard," Chaska would rebate 10 percent of its earnings back to that city, he said.

Council member Gary Lenz was interested in where Chaska's "backbone" was.

It has a direct fiber connection from downtown Minneapolis, which is where the backbone provider is located, Mayer replied. "In addition to that, Chaska is implementing a backup wireless connection as well to downtown Minneapolis, where it will provide a redundant and load balancing connection."

"Our system, as it gets farther west, is built on our redundant-type system, where we use wireless, where it jumps from Chaska to Waconia to Norwood Young America to Cologne and back to Chaska, so that's going to be fairly reliable as well," Mayer said.

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