Rio Rancho chooses to make Wi-Fi system free
Residents of Rio Rancho, N.M., will be able to access the citywide Wi-Fi network for free after the city council this week voted to change the terms of its agreement with service provider Azulstar.
Under the new agreement, Rio Rancho citizens will be able to access the Internet via the Azulstar Wi-Fi network at no cost after viewing a short video commercial upon logging onto the system, Azulstar CEO Tyler van Houwelingen said.
Previously, Rio Rancho residents could use the Azulstar network at low cost and the city received a percentage of Azulstar’s revenues, van Houwelingen said. Under the new agreement, the revenue-sharing arrangement was dissolved and Azulstar will depend solely on targeted advertising-a strategy Google has said it would employ if it wins a municipal Wi-Fi contract in San Francisco-to generate revenues.
“In effect, the city traded revenues for free Internet,” van Houwelingen said.
Rio Rancho residents using the Wi-Fi network for free will access the Internet at speeds of 100 kb/s, but Azulstar can provision greater speeds during the time that the commercial plays, so an advertiser is not limited by bandwidth, van Houwelingen said. Users taking advantage of the free-access offer also will receive limited support from the Azulstar technical staff, he said.
Paid individual users on the network will realize data rates in excess of 1 MB/s, while enterprise customers-including the city of Rio Rancho-will pay for data rates of 3 MB/s. Access to the network currently is limited to 2.4 GHz technologies, but van Houwelingen said Azulstar is conducting tests with the city to prepare for the possibility of deploying a 4.9 GHz network for public safety.