The Arizona Legislature is joining the high-speed wireless class with a system that will provide free public access in several areas of the Senate and House buildings by Jan. 12.
Officials for Intel Corp. and Cox Communications demonstrated Wednesday the system they are donating to the Capitol that will include eight broadcast nodes each serving 64 laptop computers and personal digital assistants at once. The demonstration came on the eve of today’s One Unwired Day event, sponsored by Intel, in which thousands of hotspots will offer free wireless access for the day.
To use a wireless hotspot, a computer or PDA must have either an internal wireless card or integrated wireless capability, such as Intel’s Centrino.
"This is the next step of introducing the public to this new technology," Intel spokeswoman Jeanie Frobes said.
Among the businesses offering free access today are participating Starbucks, Circle K’s and number of hotels in the East Valley. The free hot spots list is available at www.intel.com.
At the Capitol, the wireless coverage will include building lobbies and committee hearing rooms, but won’t reach to the third-floor galleries where the public can watch the full Senate and House in action, said state Sen. Dean Martin, R-Phoenix.
In tel and Cox are promoting their joint donation as a demonstration of how businesses can link customers to the Internet while visiting their business sites.
"This project is the perfect example of what we see is emerging in the marketplace," said Mike Lischke, director of Intel Solution Services.
Lischke said the project was affordable for the two companies because of new technology called "power over ethernet." The broadcast nodes will receive power through their Internet connections instead of new electrical lines, Lischke said.
Arizona will be the first Legislature in the country to offer public wireless access, although other states such as New Mexico also are exploring the idea, Martin said.
Lobbyists without Blackberries will be the first beneficiaries of the new system, as they can use their personal computers to track bills, watch a second committee hearing or direct e-mails to lawmakers.
House Speaker Pro Tem Bob Robson, R-Chandler, said he thinks wireless access will encourage more people to come to Capitol and testify before committees.
Such people will be able to conduct business by Web mail and browsers while waiting for lawmakers to act on the bills they care about.
"Once the public realizes this mechanism is available to them, I think they will be greater users of it," Robson said. "People can now come down and still be involved in doing their work. Information can still be found. It’s accessible."