Gwinnett wi-fi project facing budget set-backs

LAWRENCEVILLE - County officials may soon go back to the drawing board on a proposal to provide wireless Internet access throughout Gwinnett.

Commissioners will be asked to reject proposals from two companies concerning the project, after county staff was unable to negotiate "a solution within our budget," according to a county memo.

Project manager Barry Puckett said one company proposed a project worth between $8 and $10 million, while another quoted a cost of $500,000 a year.

Both, he said, would not fit into the budget, comprised of a $750,000 state grant with a $375,000 local match.

While officials had hoped to create a first phase of wireless coverage for areas in all incorporated city limits - about 90 miles - Puckett said the phase will likely be scaled back to encompass the cities of Lawrenceville and Buford - about 30 miles. He said those cities, two of Gwinnett's largest, were chosen because the municipalities have power utilities, and vendors can use the poles to install needed infrastructure. Other areas would be added in later stages of the project.

Puckett said the county had required free government wireless services, but both vendors came back with proposals to charge the county. Both, he said, also proposed both free and paid services for citizens.

Chairman Charles Bannister said he had not reviewed the information Friday but still had high hopes for the wireless initiative, which Gov. Sonny Perdue introduced as a way to bring businesses to Georgia.

"I hate that, but maybe a second chance is better," Bannister said of the proposed rejection.