Austin making progress with high-speed Internet access

Published 10:31 am Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ultra-high speed Internet access is a reality in Austin.

Wireless Internet is working for users.

“Our challenge remains to get everybody connected,” said Craig Jones, Southern Minnesota Internet Group (SMIG) director of Internet services. “We reached the 80 percent mark last week.”

Email newsletter signup

“There may be a lot of impatience out there among Internet-users, but none more than we have ourselves,” he said.

“We’re up and running. Wireless Internet is here,” he said.

Austin has something that Albert Lea, Owatonna and Rochester do not have, according to Jones. The ultra-high speed Internet access puts Austin in an information technology league of its own.

Northern Austin — even north of Interstate 90 — remains an area with only spotty service.

It’s being “worked on,” according to Jones.

The Austin Utilities’ spokesperson, Kim Duncan, said the utility’s infrastructure installation work was complete and final testing done in March.

SMIG is leasing the equipment from Austin Utilities.

There is a learning curve to be ascended when talking about how much anticipated Wireless-Internet is to computer users.

Suffice to say, dial-up on a telephone line or cable access to the Internet is the dreary night to the daylight of wireless technology.


The Wireless-Internet or Wi-Fi project began four years ago in Austin. It required a city charter change first before moving forward.

The term Wi-Fi often is used by the public as a synonym for wireless Internet (WLAN) computers can network to each other and connect to the Internet, mobile computers can connect to the Internet from any Wi-Fi hotspot, and digital cameras can transfer images wirelessly.

Routers which incorporate a DSL-modem or a cable-modem and a Wi-Fi access point, often set up in homes and other premises, provide Internet-access and internetworking to all devices connected (wirelessly or by cable) to them.

One can also connect Wi-Fi devices in ad-hoc mode for client-to-client connections without a router.

Wi-Fi also enables places which would traditionally not have network to be connected, for example bathrooms, kitchens and garden sheds.

The “father of Wi-Fi,” Vic Hayes, stated that being able to access the Internet while answering a call of nature was “one of life’s most liberating experiences.”

As of 2008 Wi-Fi technology had spread widely within business and industrial sites.

In business environments, just like other environments, increasing the number of Wi-Fi access-points provides redundancy, support for fast roaming and increased overall network-capacity by using more channels or by defining smaller cells.

It may sound like high technology gibberish to the un-wired world, but to others — particularly today’s school children and teens — to be wireless is to be wired to the future.

“Performance and price” are the challenges SMIG must deliver to its customers and Wi-Fi does that, according to Jones.

The general manager has three full-time technicians, plus part-time phone technicians to handle users’ questions and requests.

“We’re excited to be able to offer this new service to the residents of Austin and we appreciate the cooperation we have received from Austin Utilities,” Jones said.

The Southern Minnesota Internet Group (SMIG) was incorporated in 1995 by a group of individuals who shared an interest in science and education.

SMIG entered into an agreement with the University of Minnesota’s Hormel Institute to bring Internet access to communities and rural area in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

SMIG is headquartered at the Hormel Institute, 891 16th Avenue Northeast.

For more information, call 437-9698 or toll-free 1-866-438-7644 or e-mail