Milwaukee Common Council members voted 14-1 this week 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 have the 96-square-mile network completed in 18 months, with a demonstration area covering six 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.

Under the terms of the agreement, Midwest Fiber Networks will be allowed to access the city’s underground conduits to expand its existing fiber network in return for 1% to 3% of revenues received from the wireless network, Raffaelli said. Midwest Fiber Networks will pay normal fees to access city-owned streetlights and poles to locate wireless nodes.

Enterprises and Internet services providers 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, but such a deal could be a possibility in the Raffaelli said.

“We don’t have any existing agreements to use it for private [city] applications, but it certainly will be available for that,” she said.

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 Midwest Fiber Network’s fiber network.

“I would call it Wi-Fi on steroids,” Ivancevic said, noting that the network will be designed to take advantage of WiMAX and mobile WiMAX standards when they are finalized in the future. In addition, the network could use spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band to mesh between nodes, he said.

When agreements with service providers are reached, consumers are expected to be able to access the Milwaukee network for an average of $20 per month, Ivancevic said.