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Hooked Up for Hoopfest 

by Kristina Crawley

Downtown Spokane will be a HotZone during this year's Hoopfest games -- an Internet hot zone, that is. Local tech companies have been working with the city of Spokane to get 100 blocks of free wireless Internet access up and running just in time for the tournament. Spokane's Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) HotZone project has been in the making for some time. Last year, a smaller, temporary system was tested during Hoopfest and generated enough positive feedback to prompt the city into looking at a permanent network. There were, however, a few glitches that needed to be worked out, according to Tom Heavey, technical manager for Hoopfest. Holes in coverage, known as "shadows," prevented users from accessing the network in certain areas. Security is another concern, especially since there has been so much more publicity this time around.

"You can have users who are inadvertently using too much bandwidth, or you could have malicious users" who purposefully jam up the system, making it difficult for everyone to use, says Heavey.

But Vivato, one of the Spokane-area technology companies that have contributed to the project, will have personnel monitoring the network to prevent that from happening. Vivato will also use a type of hardware called bridge routers to cover the user holes. Twelve of the routers will be permanently mounted throughout the 100-block area, which covers an area stretching from Interstate 90 to Riverfront Park between Division Street and Cedar Street.

Other companies that have contributed to the project are Itronics, 180 Networks, the Downtown Spokane Partnership, White Runkle and Percel Systems. The project has a total value of $400,000, but has only cost the city $50,000 for equipment because of donated time and services.

"Our partners have been spectacular," says Robin Toth, Spokane's economic project development manager. "It's been an impressive effort, and it's meant a lot to the city."

So bring your laptop or your handheld PDA -- you can check scores on the Hoopfest Web site throughout the weekend.

Publication date: 06/24/04

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