How Municipal WiFi Works

Users take advantage of a wireless network in Tempe, Arizona.  See more ways to go online with Internet connection pictures.
Photo courtesy City of Tempe

Imagine you're a reporter writing about a tense hostage situation, and you're on a tight deadline. You don't have time to drive back to your office, and if you leave you'll miss out on the developing story. Fortunately, you have wireless access to the Internet -- you can write and file your story without leaving the scene.

Part of your article describes how police have access to real-time feeds from security cameras. From their patrol cars, officers monitor the situation and access blueprints of the building, including its entrances, exits and hiding places. They use this information to plan what to do. They also have a secure network connecting them to a hostage negotiator.

When the situation is over, everyone believes this municipal wireless network and the information it carried helped lead to a peaceful resolution.

In this article, you'll learn about the amazing things that these networks can do -- besides potentially providing free or cheap Internet access. You'll also learn about the technology behind them and why "Municipal WiFi" can be a misnomer.