Company planning wireless Web for rural areas

A $500,00 price tag is delaying immediate access to the technology.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:17 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Columbia company plans to provide wireless Internet to people living in rural areas surrounding Columbia.

“We are trying to ring the city,” said Jerry Hyde, technical supervisor for Columbia Computer Center.

The ultimate goal, he said, is to provide another Internet option for people outside of town who do not have many high-speed Internet options.

Some of the coverage area includes Pierpont, Hallsville, Harrisburg and Millersburg.

Hyde, however, is unsure when the connections will be available.

“Right now, it isn’t very cost-effective,” Hyde said.

“As far as the software goes, we’re ready.”

The company already has clearance with radio tower owners around the city and has servers in place to handle thousands of e-mail addresses and connections, but to start the service now would require either that the company pay about $500,000 for tower rights and other infrastructure or that customers install nearly $1,000 worth of hardware on their machines, Hyde said.

Once the next generation in wireless technology is available, however, the cost per month will be less than $40.

The hardware companies are about six months behind schedule.

All the hardware involved was supposed to be available at the beginning of the summer but has been delayed indefinitely.

The company also has wireless Internet available in “chilly spots” around town.

When the connection is available, clients can log in and pay by the minute to use the Internet. New customers can fill out and submit a form with credit card information and be online as soon as the information is verified. The verification usually takes less than an hour.

The company has also explored the possibility of extending its wireless service in Columbia, but Hyde said, “I’m not sure if that is something we want to get into.”

He said there does not appear to be enough demand inside the city and that people already have many Internet providers from which to choose.

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