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City tests out WiFi
Trial run a success
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The city of Dawsonville is testing a new technology system designed to give residents additional Internet options.

"We've noticed a lot of people in Dawsonville - and we've experienced it ourselves - that either don't have access to Internet or their Internet quality is not what they need and there are no other options currently available," said Councilman Chris Gaines.

While the city is on the North Georgia Network, now known as Trailwave, only nearby residents and business have access to the fiber optic system that runs from Atlanta along the Ga. 400 corridor. Trailwave also supplies Dawson County Schools with Internet.

Gaines said a second option for an Internet network was explored after the city was approached by a major business.

"Originally, Atlanta Motorsports Park wanted to run that network out to their facility," Gaines said. "The wired fiber proved to be too costly to run out to the park, but there is technology now where they can run a highly concentrated wireless feed that runs from one tower to another."

ABT Wireless, a locally-owned wireless Internet service provider out of Cleveland that uses Trailwave's network, began work with the city to provide se vice to the motorsports park.

"Charlie Auverman [executive director of the Development Authority of Dawson County] sent ABT Wireless over to talk to us about the motorsports park," Gaines said. "In that conversation, we started talking about other Internet options we could provide to the citizens of Dawsonville."

The provider said it could deliver high-speed Internet through a system of antennas and relays.

"When we design a system, we do it to be community specific," said Rich Tarpley, president and CEO of ABT Wireless. "By using the fiber optics as the backbone, we have loads of bandwidth available.

"We're using all state-of-the-art equipment and software. There are no legacy systems that have been in use for years anywhere. This is all brand-new stuff."

Gaines said the final intent was to provide the downtown area with a "blanket" of Internet for people to use while out of the home, on top of offering an alternative service provider.

The city started testing the network in a few areas by mounting antennas on water towers. From there, the system can be transmitted to test locations around the city.

"The city doesn't have any cost in the infrastructure," Gaines said. "We have not spent any taxpayer money on this system. Everything is being done by ABT Wireless. Not a dime is coming from the city."

While still early, pricing quotes from ABT are reportedly "comparable to current available products," with residential plan speeds of 15 and 25 mpbs, or megabits per second, a measure of data transfer speed.

Windstream, the lone service provide in Dawsonville, currently offers a residential plan at 3 mbps for about $60 a month.

"We looked at the legalities of that and I talked to Kevin Tanner [state representative] about the legislation regarding municipalities offering services that competes with private industry," Gaines said. "That's not our goal. Our goal is to provide another service to our citizens. We think we have the green light there."

The wireless network was also tested by ABT during the Moonshine Festival, during which more than 1,000 devices were connected to the network at once.

The next phase will be to expand the coverage area from Burt's Crossing to the Maple Street and Howser Mill areas, as well as Shoal Creek.

"They are going to test the new areas for a period of time and bring it before the council in December to see if the city wants to vote to offer that," Gaines said.