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GCN : January 2013
32 GCN JANUARY 2013 • GCN.COM NETWORKS CASE STUDY Leibovitz, wireless product manager for Enterasys, said of municipal efforts. The emergence of competing technologies such as WiMax and 4G Long Term Evo- lution for cellular service slowed Wi-Fi deployment, and there was an effort to match new capabilities with needs. There also were concerns about the propriety of cities competing with commercial carri- ers by providing free Internet services. Staunton, a town of 24,000 covering about 20 square miles in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, began dabbling in public Wi-Fi about 10 years ago when it became one of the first cities to offer it in its libraries. The city manager was excited about the possibility of extending it to the rest of the city, but "I didn't feel comfort- able doing that," Plowman admitted. He said he didn't feel the technology was mature enough or that there would be enough bandwidth to make it feasible, and, as elsewhere, there were the ques- tions of unfair competition with commer- cial carriers. BYOD DRIVES WI-FI REVIVAL Municipal Wi-Fi is not dead, however. Many cities still offer the service and some are considering creating new wire- less networks. Chicago recently issued a Request for Information for a citywide expansion of its broadband infrastruc- ture that would include free or subsidized high-speed wired and wireless service in underserved and disadvantaged areas, as well as free wireless access in parks and other public spaces. There is an expanding demand for the service, Leibovitz said. "The driver today is BYOD," he said. The explosive growth in the number of devices has created an expectation of wireless connectivity any- where. For Staunton, the driver for public Wi- Fi was the creation of a 30-mile fiber op- tic city backbone about two years ago to replace the city's leased lines. Thirteen years ago, telecoms had leased the city's dark fiber, but over the years they became more interested in selling services than in capacity, and the city decided to build out its own infrastructure in cooperation with a local carrier. "Cost was a driving factor, along with bandwidth," Plowman said. "We built a better network as a public-private part- nership and saved a lot of money in the long run." The fiber links about 30 government lo- cations, including Gypsy Hill Park, which is used extensively all summer. The park's bandstand offers entertainment four or five times a week and there are frequent festivals and other activities. Officials de- cided that, "for what we're spending put- ting fiber in, let's put something in to give the public something for the expense," Plowman said. HOW THEY DID IT Staunton has an IT staff of just five, but the task was simplified because mobile wire- less access has been embedded in the En- terasys architecture that the city had been using for years. That allows an integrated end-to-end wired-and-wireless architec- ture that is centrally managed through the OneFabric control center. Having a central point of management with a controller-based solution is a ma- jor enabler for the public wireless access, Plowman said. He doesn't have to manage multiple access points manually but can build policy centrally and push it out. Ad- justments can be made on the fly without having to touch individual access points, and a central point of visibility makes filter- ing and bandwidth management simple. In addition to the control center, the network uses Enterasys N-Series modular switches and G-Series edge switches, as well as Enterasys's IdentiFi access points and controllers. Traffic from the public Wi-Fi access points is segregated from the city network on private segments, with city resources behind firewalls to prevent unauthorized access. "We do very little filtering on it," Plow- man said of the public segment. "We do some bandwidth throttling," to discour- age use of bandwidth hogs such as peer- to-peer file sharing applications on the free service. "We don't prevent it. We just make it painfully slow," he said. To address the issue of unfair competi- tion, the city does its best not to compete with commercial DSL and cable services by grooming the access point signals to keep them within the park. "I made it a point to ensure that we were not providing free pipes to people living in the nearby neighborhoods," Plowman said. So far, carriers have not complained, and in return the service has been a ben- efit for park users, including tourists who are important to the city's economy. "It's been a small investment," Plow- man said, "but we've gotten a good return on it." • In Staunton, Va., re-introduction of public Wi-Fi service has been a benefit to park users and tourists who are a key to the city's economy.