Gilbert residents are next in line to have townwide wireless Internet — free in some spots — in an agreement approved by the Town Council this week.
It will be the town’s second attempt to offer townwide wireless broadband Internet, after an arrangement for another service five years ago fell through.
The Town Council on Wednesday voted to approve a contract with NeoReach Wireless, which just last month began installing its service in Chandler.
Ultimately, NeoReach plans to offer wireless service Valleywide, said Ryan McCaigue, director of network operations.
“I believe we’re providing the opportunity to bridge the digital divide that exists in this country,” he said.
As about 800 to 1,000 antennas are installed on light poles next year, there will be free access to Gilbert’s town Web site, Arizona State University’s site and Maricopa County Community College sites.
In two square miles of area not yet designated but expected to include the downtown park and ride, the civic center and future malls in Gilbert, residents will have two free hours of full Internet access daily.
Residents can also subscribe to the service as their provider for $3.95 an hour, $7.95 a day, $19.95 a week or $29.95 a month. Town officials said they expect to save millions of dollars in the deal, in which they get 3,000 free network subscriptions in exchange for providing NeoReach up to $15,000 worth of free electricity monthly.
Representatives from a smaller wireless service, Wydebeam, told the council they were concerned the proposal would disrupt the service they offer to schools and companies. Councilman Dave Crozier said he supported the service only as long as no part of town had preferential treatment, allowing some residents or businesses to get free service while others have to pay.
Gilbert’s director of technology Shawn Woolley said Gilbert will give the Valley the “largest unbroken chain” of Wi-Fi in the nation.