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Fargo city leaders clear path for free Wi-Fi downtown

FARGO — City leaders agreed Monday night, Sept. 11, on new rules clearing the way for Midco to offer free Wi-Fi downtown.

City staff, which has put in place laws and fees for allowing cellphone antennas on the city's right-of-way as a way to limit the density of these antennas in any area, asked the City Commission to agree to fees for Wi-Fi antennas.

Justin Forde, a Midco representative, said he thinks workers could set up the downtown Wi-Fi network in eight to nine weeks as soon as the city gives the go ahead.

On Monday, the city approved seven of the 10 antennas the cable Internet provider plans to install, mostly along Broadway and Roberts Alley. The remaining three would be mounted with traffic signals and require some additional legal paperwork.

Fees range from $50 a year per antenna if they're not on city-owned utility poles to $200 a year if they use city poles and city power. Free providers see their fees cut in half. City consultants had recommended the fees after looking at those charged by other cities.

Commissioner Tony Gehrig said the city should talk with businesses to see what fees should be. The city has an interest in encouraging the kind of service Midco will provide, he said.

Brenda Derrig, a city engineer, said she expects city staff and leaders to revisit fees frequently because of rapid changes in technology.

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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