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KPUD signs contract to improve Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi antennas placed in Poulsbo, such as this one on the Lutheran Church, were powerful enough to send a signal out, but were too far away for devices to send a signal back. - Richard D. Oxley / North Kitsap Herald
Wi-Fi antennas placed in Poulsbo, such as this one on the Lutheran Church, were powerful enough to send a signal out, but were too far away for devices to send a signal back.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / North Kitsap Herald

POULSBO — The Kitsap Public Utility District has taken many steps toward offering free Wi-Fi access to a handful of Kitsap communities. Now, it hopes to take a leap.

The utility district has signed a contract with a consultant to assess and fix its pilot public Wi-Fi networks in Poulsbo and on Bainbridge Island.

“Poulsbo will be the starting point for the upgrade project, simply because our office is here in city,” David Jones of KPUD told the Poulsbo City Council’s economic development committee May 28.

KPUD has hired the Port Townsend company Intellicheck Mobilisa, Inc. to take a look at and remodel its Wi-Fi systems. The contract is for the consultant to improve Poulsbo’s system and the Wi-Fi network in downtown Winslow on Bainbridge Island.

Founded in 1994, Intellicheck Mobilisa, Inc. specializes in wireless technology and mobile devices; areas that will hopefully assist KPUD improve its public Wi-Fi systems.

KPUD began running into problems with its first try at a Wi-Fi system when devices had difficulty communicating with antennas. The antennas were powerful enough to send out a signal across wide areas, however, devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones often lacked the range to send a signal back.

“It hasn’t been very successful, not from a demand point-of-view but from a technology point-of-view,” Jones said. “A lot of frustrated people have called us and said they could see the signal, but couldn’t use it.”

The pilot program to offer free public Wi-Fi put hotspots in downtown Winslow on Bainbridge Island, Kingston, and Poulsbo.

There were four antennas placed in downtown Poulsbo.

“Which was not enough,” Jones said.

An upgraded system will likely equate to more antennas throughout a coverage area.

“I’m willing to put a tower on my house,” joked Poulsbo Port Commissioner Jim Rut-ledge, who attended the May 28 meeting.

“I’m willing to wear one,” quipped Councilman Ed Stern.

Improving the system may require KPUD to further expand its fiberoptic system to accommodate additional antennas.

“We are going back to the core,” Jones said. “Front Street up to parks and rec building, and do it correctly this time with slightly different technology ...

“We are actually putting a fair amount of money into it now, whereas before we were scratching at funds. We’re more serious about it now.”

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