Wireless services firm Azulstar Networks yesterday announced completion of its 40-square-mile contiguous Wi-Fi network for the city of Rio Rancho, N.M.

"This is a proud moment for our city as we officially 'cut the cord' and become a digital community,” Rio Rancho Mayor Jim Owen said in a prepared statement. “We are the City of Vision, and metro Wi-Fi is clearly the future. The benefits touch virtually every corner of our community, from the schools system to the transportation network, and mobile first responders. Everyone benefits."

The Rio Rancho network is one of the world’s largest metro Wi-Fi networks, featuring more than 400 Wi-Fi and pre-WiMAX radios that allow the community’s 70,000 users high-speed Internet access from laptops. The public school system launched a Cyber Learning Academy using the network, and the New Mexico Department of Transportation is piloting a traffic monitoring and control system over the Wi-Fi network.

Azulstar also announced the completion of Wi-Fi networks in the cities of Ferrysburg and Spring Lake, Mich. These cities have joined Grand Haven, Mich., in a tri-city network.

In addition, Azulstar announced its Hot City in a Box product, an all-in-one solution that lets cities realize revenues and cost savings while enhancing city services, according to a company press release.

"As forward-thinking communities prove the value of metro Wi-Fi, 2006 promises to be the year of the Hot City as more and more towns embrace wireless," Azulstar CEO Tyler van Houwelingen said in a prepared statement. "Metro Wi-Fi is quickly being recognized as the most cost effective way to connect city agencies and infrastructure as well as bring the Internet to everyone.