MILWAUKEE, June 4 (UPI) -- Milwaukee is setting up high-speed wireless networks in two downtown parks this summer, becoming one of the first U.S. cities to offer free Wi-Fi Internet access.
Private companies including SBC Communications and Cisco Systems are donating equipment for the hot spots in Pere Marquette Park and Cathedral Square Park. People with laptop computers and a $50 Wi-Fi access card, or an Internet-ready PDA, will be able to surf the Net via a digital subscriber line at about double the speed of a 56kbps dial-up modem for as long as they want.
The system will not filter content or provide security from hackers.
The range of the Wi-Fi signal, or wireless fidelity, known by its technical specification 802.11b, is about 500 feet but the signal will be relayed from several transmitters atop of streetlights.
City Chief Information Officer Randy Gschwind told Wednesday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel people will be able to log on to the Internet to check their e-mail while listening to Jazz in the Park concerts in Cathedral Square.
"They are going to sit with wine bottles out and their laptops right next to them," he said.
Like many cities, Milwaukee already has dozens of Wi-Fi hot spots in cafes, coffee shops, colleges and private businesses but city-sponsored sites are relatively new for North America.
City-sponsored wireless zones are popular in the downtown restaurant district of Long Beach, Calif., and more cities are expected to follow suit.