The Southern Maryland Independent reports the Charles County Technology Council brought together local innovators in technology and environmental sustainability on September 10. The event featured the county's public service innovations in the field as well as showcasing electric vehicles and solar energy technologies. In addition, the newspaper noted the Charles County Public Library's (CCPL) downtown wireless network, in partnership with the town of La Plata, has been expanded with 15 wireless access points and exceeds 1,000 users per month. The Library has also upgraded its public workstations to lower wattage computers, reducing both energy usage and heat output.
For over a year, the La Plata downtown wireless zone is available free to the general public. The wifi project began in 2008 when the CCPL applied for an Innovation Grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Though La Plata budgeted a matching $50,000, the grant was turned down but the partnership between the Town and Library continued. In 2010, the Library agreed to assume administrative and technical maintenance while the Town used its budgeted funds to deploy equipment. CCPL provides T1 backbone to wireless routers purchased from San Francisco-based Meraki. Private owners agree to lend rooftop space for nodes at no cost. In September 2010, the system went online and later expanded to include much of Downtown back to the Town Hall. Last June, the system hit a milestone 1,000 unique users--La Plata's population is about 8,700. The Town now looks to continue expanding the availability but also to move into utilities and municipal services. [More information found in their powerpoint.]
The La Plata model was looked at this summer by nearby town of Berlin, also exploring public wi-fi. Via Ocean City Today:
The town of La Plata in Charles County successfully coordinated a free Internet signal in its small downtown area to stimulate economic development and tourism, but “not to replace people’s Internet service connections,” according to La Plata Town Manager Daniel Mears...“The town funds capital costs to outlay wireless Internet nodes, and the library provides tech services to maintain and operate the network... It’s a little over $9,000 per year for the data and T1 line costs going out for the bandwidth, which is our major expense. We have budgeted $7,500 set aside for any maintenance, but we’re not expecting to need it since we just built the network, so we’ll be using that for some signal expansion."