UPDATE: Mayor, city docs differ on downtown Wi-Fi costs

Editor’s Note: Due to claims on social media by Mayor Mike Wiza that our story is based on the author’s opinion, our staff has decided to include raw audio from the interview, located at the end of this story. No other changes to the story have been made.

By Brandi Makuski

A new public Wi-Fi service for the Downtown Square is being funded through the city’s IT department, according to Mayor Mike Wiza, but there are still questions about its exact costs.

The new wireless data service, available by using the password “MayorMike”, debuted quietly for testing two weekends ago, Wiza said, primarily as a way to help vendors at the downtown farmers market.

“It came from the IT budget, it’s one of those feel-good things for the city,” he said.

When first asked on Aug. 14 about costs related to the new service, Wiza said it would be “next to nothing”.

Wiza also said on Aug. 14 there were “no ongoing costs” related to the new program, which offers a combined 10G of data for users within a limited range of the square.

“This came about, primarily, because of Farmshed and their EBT [Foodshare] program,” Wiza said following a county Space & Properties Committee meeting on Tuesday. “Part of this is so other [farmers market] vendors can now use Wi-Fi on their [mobile] devices for EBT and to take credit cards, if that is something they wish to do. We’ve got fiber [optic data lines] that runs most of the way there anyway. All this really was, was [purchasing] an access point on the square.”

Wiza explained the access point was a small broadcasting unit that city crews attached to a light pole in the downtown area.

“It was a little pricier than what you have at home; I think mine cost about a hundred bucks. I don’t have the exact numbers, but it’s going to be less than $1,000,” Wiza said. “We know what the bill should be, but I don’t know that we’ve gotten all the actual invoices yet. But there are no additional ongoing charges other than what we’re already paying—nothing. Ideally, I’d like to have [Wi-Fi] all the way down Main St.”

When pressed for additional details on cost, he said, “We don’t even have all the numbers yet. We may not even have all the invoices yet.”

Along with the access point, Wiza said the city had to purchase a fiber-to-copper converter, and may have had to buy additional fiber optic data lines for the project, but wasn’t immediately certain.

The city contracts with WiscNet, a network provider that specializes in working with municipal governments and school districts, for what Wiza calls “a crap ton of data bandwidth”, adding, “how we use it is up to us.”

WiscNet provides secure Wi-Fi for use in city offices and the police department, Wiza said, and the city offers segregated access for the public at both the police department and the Riverfront Arts Center, along with the new downtown access.

Comptroller-Treasurer Corey Ladick on Aug. 15 confirmed the city’s IT department hasn’t yet received all the invoices for the project, but said initial estimates for startup costs are expected to be about $3,000.

Ladick also said the city would need to pay a license fee of $211.50 for the first five years.

“So an effective ongoing cost of $42.30 [per] year,” Ladick said by email Wednesday.

The costs will be charged to a “general expense” line item within the IT department’s budget, Ladick said, a line item typically used for network infrastructure or computer repairs and/or upgrades.

“There are line items for network infrastructure, and computer upgrades, which a variety of expenses such as this one fall under,” Ladick said.

Wiza released the following video giving his explanation for the new service Wednesday morning:

Raw audio of the Aug. 14 interview with Mayor Mike Wiza about the downtown Wi-Fi:

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