‘Modified Wireless Oakland’ could bring hotspots

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published July 20, 2011


OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — A proposal to give township residents north of Gunn Road access to a new high-speed wireless Internet provider includes free hotspots at the Paint Creek Cider Mill and in downtown Rochester.

Oakland County Deputy County Executive Phil Bertolini presented to the plan to members of the Oakland Township Board of Trustees July 12.

“We had a program named Wireless Oakland in 2005,” Bertolini said. “We were a victim of the economy — the investors went south. This is a modified version.”

David Simmet, vice president of operations for Air Advantage, said his company, based in Frankenmuth, has created a service area that will encompass the northern half of Oakland Township.

“The mission is to provide (high speed wireless Internet access) to individuals who can’t get the Internet in rural areas,” Simmet said. “We have been talking to residents who have dial-up service.”

Air Advantage received an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus grant of $64 million, Simmet said, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of a $7.2 billion federal effort to bring high-speed wireless Internet service to rural areas.

“Our entire service covers 13 counties,” Simmet said. “We have been working closely with Oakland County.” A provision of the funding requires project completion by September 2013.

“We believe everyone should have access to the Internet,” Bertolini said.

The free wireless hotspots — proposed for Paint Creek Cider Mill, on Orion Road, and in downtown Rochester — would provide Internet access within a half-mile radius.

“We believe the citizens of Oakland Township frequent Rochester,” Bertolini said.

For home installation of the new wireless service, there would be a $125 fee, plus a monthly fee of $38, if paid for with a credit card, Simmet said. An existing cellular tower owned by Oakland Township would provide a site for the Air Advantage antenna, he said.

Oakland Township Trustee Sharon McKay said she lives in the north end of the township and has Internet service for less than the price proposed by Air Advantage.

“There is no question you can get (wireless Internet) for less, but the price goes up in time,” Simmet said. “It is not our aim to compete.”

However, Oakland Township Trustee Marc Edwards said he is all for competition. “I think this is a good thing. The more choice we have as individuals, the better. ”

The board will vote on the matter, including the location of the free wireless hotspots, at a date that had not been determined by press time.