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Decatur Changes Wi-Fi Operators

Dalton-based Brightlan to handle oft-criticized system.

As expected, the Decatur City Commission has picked Brightlan LLC, a Dalton-based company, to operate and maintain the city's wi-fi network.

Brightlan was the only company to submit a proposal. Assistant City Manager Andrea Arnold said the request for proposal was sent to four companies and posted on www.muniwireless.com, which serves as a clearinghouse for all things wireless in cities.

The city won't pay Brightlan anything. As Arnold explained Monday night at the commission meeting, the city allows the ISP, or internet service provider, to operate the network and charge fees to customers. In turn, the city is entitled to 20 percent of gross revenues. She didn't know how much money that would amount to.

The commission showed it was ready for a change.

"It's got to be better than what we have now," said Commissioner Jim Baskett.

The current wi-fi service, provided by GTS, has been often criticized because the coverage area is spotty and it's hard to sign in. The city started the wi-fi network with a state grant and hired GTS in 2007, but that contract ran out.

Decatur is a challenging place to deliver wi-fi because of the hilly terrain and abundance of trees, Arnold said. She noted that Brightlan operates wi-fi systems in Hapeville and Dublin.

The vote was 4-0. Commissioner Fred Boykin was absent.

The commission also approved a 75-cent charge per transaction on prepaid wireless services. Any money collected has to go for 911 services.

The charge is allowed because of House Bill 256, which was approved in the 2011 legislative session. The service provider will collect the money and send it to the state, which will redistribute it to cities that approve the charge.

She didn't know exactly how much money they city could make, but said in an email the Association County Commissioners of Georgia estimated it was $20 million statewide. If Decatur receives a percentage based on population, that would be about $40,000, she said.

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