Milwaukee Common Council members voted 14-1 to approve a $20 million deal with Midwest Fiber Networks to build and maintain a citywide, high-speed wireless mesh network targeted toward the city's consumers and enterprises, according to media reports.

Milwaukee-based Midwest Fiber Networks plans to complete the 96-square-mile network in 18 months, with a demonstration area covering 6 square miles on the west side of downtown scheduled to be ready in four months, said Midwest Fiber Networks co-owner Donna Raffaelli. No vendor has been selected, but Midwest Fiber Networks has been working with Tropos Networks, Motorola and Cisco Systems in the planning stages of the project, she said.

Enterprises and ISPs will be able to access the open network. No part of the agreement calls for the city of Milwaukee to utilize the network for public-safety or city administrative purposes.

Although the Milwaukee network will utilize Wi-Fi at 2.4 GHz to connect to users, wireless hops between the meshed nodes will be transmitted at 900 MHz, 5 GHz and 5.7 GHz, said Nik Ivancevic, a partner in Midwest Fiber Networks. Plans for the network call for no more than three wireless hops between nodes before reaching an access point that accesses the network.