Lexington wireless service to expand

Wireless Internet service will be activated by late summer in large parts of Lexington, including two underserved areas — Cardinal Valley and the East End — and along major corridors leading into downtown.

The expanded coverage is designed primarily for public safety, but will provide wireless service in areas where people have little or no access to broadband, said Rama Dhuwaraha, the city's chief information officer.

From a public safety standpoint, the coverage will allow police, fire and Fayette County sheriff's officers in the field immediate access to key databases.

Dhuwaraha said the expanded wireless "is not an attempt to compete with private providers."

He added: "In the underserved areas, we hope people will begin to understand the importance of broadband access and eventually contract with private providers for a higher degree of service."

In making the announcement Tuesday, Mayor Jim Newberry said the expanded wireless also "establishes another important link" connecting downtown and the University of Kentucky, "equivalent to the physical improvements being made on South Limestone."

For 27 linear miles along major roads — including North and South Broadway and Tates Creek, Nicholasville and Versailles roads — the wireless will just be available for public safety.

"We hope this puts a digital footprint on Lexington," Dhuwaraha said.

In a 4-square-mile area of downtown that includes the East End, College Town and Cardinal Valley, expanded wireless will be available along public streets for individual use and public safety. "If it bleeds over into some buildings, so be it," he added.

Police and firefighters will be able to receive information from the city's enhanced 911 system directly into computers in their cars, said Lexington police Cmdr. Alan Martin. "This could be information like physical descriptions, details about suspects and vehicles involved," he said.

A $550,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and $1.1 million in state and federal public safety grants to the city and sheriff's office will be used to establish the network.

Dhuwaraha said the city's wireless system will be merged with UK's, reducing maintenance costs.

Delivering wireless service to underserved areas is important in allowing people to search for jobs and receive information about education and health care, Martin said.