Get your browsers ready: Wireless 'Net coming to 10 state sites
Written by Bay City Times   
Tuesday, 08 February 2005 09:33

Visitors to a state-owned marina in East Tawas will be able to access the Saginaw Bay, and the rest of the world, this spring.

They should bring their laptop computers along with their boats.

Wireless Internet, or Wi-Fi, will go live at the East Tawas State Dock and nine other state parks, docks, rest areas and welcome centers this spring, state officials say.

Visitors with Wi-Fi-enabled computers and other devices will be able to access state-run Web sites for free, and the rest of the Internet using their credit card.

SBC Communications Inc. wired seven of the sites late last year, installing small antennas atop buildings and in other locations at Holland State Park, Grand Haven State Park, Ludington State Park, Mackinac Island State Dock, New Buffalo Welcome Center, Coldwater Welcome Center and the Clarkston Rest Area.

The company plans to hook up the last three sites - the East Tawas dock, Charles Mears State Park in Pentwater and Sterling State Park in Monroe - in coming months and have them ready to go before the locations reopen in April, said Kurt Weiss, communications director for the Michigan Department of Information Technology.

The state is going wireless because people asked for it, Weiss said.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources surveyed state parks users on services they'd like to see, and Wireless Internet and cable television were at the top of the list.

The state is starting with Wi-Fi to see the level of interest in high-tech services.

"I know for a lot of people, it is a big plus, because they don't have to be in the office, they can be with their family, their kids, their friends," Weiss said.

It will cost users $3.95 for two hours of access, or $7.95 for the day, with download speeds about 50 times faster than a dial-up connection.

"Michigan is the first state in the nation to provide this service at state campgrounds," said SBC spokeswoman Jessica Nunez. "It just shows how much technology has evolved."

The company is prepared to wire another 200 or so Michigan state parks and other sites if the service proves popular, Nunez said.

SBC, under contract with the state for technological services, is wiring the sites for free as a way to promote its FreedomLink Wi-Fi service.

The East Tawas dock, off US-23, has 140 slips. Users of the city-owned campground next to the East Tawas State Dock also will be able to log in.

Nunez said SBC also has installed Wi-Fi antennas at one state park in California. By the end of May, access will be available in a total of 85 California state parks, the largest deployment of such services in the nation.

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