Frequently Asked Questions
About LA WiFi
Responses to questions that are frequently asked by Los Angeles residents regarding the LA WiFi initiative are included here. Contents may be updated from time to time to reflect your questions and status of this initiative.
What is WiFi?
Wi-Fi is a wireless technology brand owned by the WiFi Alliance intended to improve the interoperability of wireless local area network products based on the IEEE 802.11 standards.
Common applications for Wi-Fi include wireless Internet and VoIP phone access, gaming, and network connectivity for consumer electronics such as televisions DVD players and digital cameras.
WiMAX is a term coined to describe standard interoperable implementations of IEEE 802.16 wireless networks. However, WiMAX is very different from Wi-Fi in the way it works, it is aimed at providing wireless data over long distances in a variety of ways, from point-to-point links to full mobile cellular type access.
What is the LA WiFi initiative?
On February 13, 2007, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Councilman Tony Cardenas announced the LA WiFi initiative. As an initial step, the City is conducting a comprehensive study to explore options for the development of a wireless broadband network for residents, businesses and City workers.
Why is the City of Los Angeles considering the LA WiFi initiative?
The availability of high speed wireless broadband across the City of Los Angeles can create numerous opportunities to improve the efficiency and delivery of city services, increase economic development, and assist in bridging the “digital divide.” Additionally, the City of Los Angeles owns a vast infrastructure of streetlights, fiber optic lines, and buildings which can be leveraged to expand networks.
Will Wi-Fi service be available in my neighborhood?
Wi-Fi service is available today in every Los Angeles Public Library branch, and a number of other City facilities. Currently Available Wi-Fi Locations.
Who will oversee the LA WiFi Initiative?
Under the direction of the Mayor and Council, the City’s Information Technology Agency (ITA) will serve as the Project Manager of the LA WiFi initiative. A Working Group that is comprised of various City departments, and Advisory Focus Areas, with the assistance of a wireless consultant, will complete a feasibility study and make appropriate recommendations to Mayor and Council.
How will the City include the public in this effort?
During the feasibility study, feedback was sought from a wide range of stakeholder groups through 29 in-depth interviews and focus groups.
These groups included:
Community at large
Special Needs Community
Additionally, two town hall meetings were conducted and comments were encouraged via the project web site. If you would like to provide your input directly, you can use the "Contact Us" links or email your information directly to LAWiFi@lacity.org.
Will the City use private partners to assist with building and operating the network?
The City intends to facilitate the creation of a citywide wireless network through some form of a private-public partnership. The City has not made any decisions regarding what types of proposed business models or requirements. In light of recent changes in the municipal wireless market and based on the experience of other cities, City of Los Angeles continues to explore various business and financing strategies for network deployment.
Will there be some level of free wireless service provided in the City?
Free Wi-Fi service is available to today in all Los Angeles Public Library branches, in Van Nuys Civic Center, and in downtown Los Angeles Pershing Square. Currently Available Wi-Fi Locations.
Will I be able to get wireless service inside a building?
Municipal Wi-Fi systems are usually designed to cover outdoor areas with a strong signal. Depending on the construction of your building, you may or may not get a sufficiently strong signal to connect your computer to the Municipal Wi-Fi system. When a strong or consistent signal is not available, some type of equipment to link with an outdoor signal and rebroadcast it inside your building is needed to receive the service. This equipment is sometimes called customer premises equipment, or CPE.
How does wireless Internet address the Digital Divide?
Today’s world requires that everyone has access to information which increasingly requires access to broadband. For various reasons, access to these services is limited for some people. In particular, low income families, seniors, the disabled, and limited English speakers may be less likely to have access to the Internet. The LA WiFi initiative anticipates helping to bridge the digital divide by facilitating access to cost effective Internet services and by fostering community programs which offer more than just Internet access to Los Angeles’ communities.
How will the wireless network improve City services?
Wireless networks could allow city staff who work in the field – firefighters, building inspectors, social and community workers, parks and street maintenance and others – the ability to access and update information at an emergency, job or client site. Residents could use a wireless service to report issues with parks and streets and directly contact appropriate City departments. The City of Los Angeles currently owns and operates wireless networks to support public safety communications needs and wireless surveillance camera zones.
Do the mobile phone companies currently provide wireless internet access?
Yes, mobile phone companies currently provide wireless Internet access through their personal communication system (PCS) infrastructure. These systems use proprietary signal schemes to move the information over the PCS infrastructure.