2017-05-18 / Front Page

Wi-Fi growth continues as Glen Arbor steps up

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Businesses, residents and visitors will have access to free WiFi in Glen Arbor this summer, continuing a progression of online access provided by local communities on the Leelanau Peninsula.

The Glen Arbor Township Board voted 4-0 Tuesday to hire locally owned Aspen Wireless to install a public wireless Internet system in the commercial district.

“We’re a little behind the curve when it comes to this,” township Supervisor Peter Van Nort said, acknowledging the growing legion of villages in Leelanau to offer free WiFi.

Those communities offering wireless computer access include marinas in Northport, Suttons Bay, Leland and Greilickville; and the incorporated villages of Empire and Northport on a limited basis.

Libraries in the county, too, have been popular places for visitors hoping to catch free airwaves to internet access.

In Glen Arbor, the system will serve an area along M-22 (Western Avenue) from the M-22 Store to the Sylvan Inn and on Lake Street from LeBear and south to the township park.

“This is something we’ve been talking about for a couple months,” Van Nort said. “I’ve checked their references and in 60 years, I’ve never heard such positive comments.”

Jim Selby of Aspen Wireless was at the meeting to explain that the signal will be carried via a portal system of 12 receivers installed on the roofs of mostly private businesses.

The system, offered free-of-charge within the service area, will have the capacity of serving up to 5,000 devices simultaneously.

Selby, who runs similar operations in the Village of Empire, the towns of Telluride and Vale in Colorado, and the Department of Defense in Hawaii, explained that the operating system has different levels of security and can control the time and volume of bandwidth occupied by users.

“The control system is aware of each person and the bandwidth they use,” VanNort said. “And it can shut off if it’s used too long.”

The initial contract with Aspen includes a $25,000 payment for installation and an annual maintenance fee of $1,800.

Currently, there are at least two businesses in Glen Arbor offer wireless WiFi in house: Cherry Republic and Leelanau Coffee Roasting Company, Van Nort said.

The system is expected to be ready for use by the Fourth of July weekend.

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