| Web posted Thursday, October 24, 2002
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Wireless exec: Larry Glackin of Ice Communications
displays an antenna hooked up to his laptop that allows him Internet access on a wireless
system he is setting up in Juneau. Glackin is aboard his boat in Auke Bay.
MICHAEL PENN/THE JUNEAU EMPIRE
Hooked up, but not tied down
New wireless Internet service being offered
By CHRISTINE SCHMID
THE JUNEAU EMPIRE © 2002
Larry Glackin would like to make it easier
for Juneau residents to take an afternoon off work.
His company, Ice Communications Inc., is
poised to offer broadband wireless Internet service in downtown Juneau, Lena Point, and
most of Douglas. The company hooked up its first customer in Juneau on Oct. 15.
The wireless service, which will be offered
at speeds as low as 64,000 bits per second, or 64K, and as high as 256K, makes Internet
service on a laptop computer portable.
"We can make it so people who are in
town on business and want to take an afternoon for fishing will still be able to connect
to the Internet while they're on the water," said Glackin, who runs the company with
Lori Glackin, his wife, and Todd Rafferty, both vice presidents of the company.
Broadband wireless Internet uses radio waves
to connect laptops or personal computers to the Internet. Antennas often are installed on
the homes or office buildings of subscribers. Laptops are outfitted with a card to receive
the signal, and sometimes are connected to a small antenna.
Once a building is outfitted for the service,
any number of computers in the building, as long as they have the proper equipment, can
connect to the Internet simultaneously.
Laptops will have uninterrupted Internet
service as long as users stay in the coverage area, which Ice Communications plans to
extend in coming months, said Rafferty.
"We'd eventually like to have all of the
northern part of Southeast Alaska covered," Glackin said.
The company's success in expanding its
coverage area depends on how many access points - from which the Internet signal is sent -
can be installed. The company has two access points now: one on the KTOO radio and TV
building in downtown Juneau and the other at Lena Point.
A disadvantage to broadband wireless Internet
service is that the connection depends on the user being within line of sight of the
access point, said David Morris, a spokesman for General Communication Inc., which offers
dial-up and cable Internet connections in Alaska.
"In Alaska you have a lot of terrain
challenges when it comes to line of sight," Morris said.
Ice Communications recognizes it can't
provide Internet service in every Juneau home.
"We're trying to make it so the majority
of people can get the service," Rafferty said.
The installation fee for a laptop or personal
computer in a home is $250. If multiple computers in a home are networked, or connected to
each other, one installation will provide Internet access to all computers. Ice
Communications can set up a wired or wireless network in a home for an additional fee.
Additional laptops in a home installation are $149.
Monthly charges for the wireless service
depend on the connection speed. The lowest possible speed, 64K, is $25 per month; 128K is
$35 per month, and 256K is $65 per month.
"One advantage to our system is that the
speeds are almost equal for both downloads and uploads," Larry Glackin said.
Uploads, such as sending an e-mail or photo
online, usually are much slower than downloads, such as reading e-mail or surfing the
Larry Glackin started Ice Communications
three years ago in Haines. The company originally offered dial-up Internet service through
a modem, and entered into the wireless Internet market two years ago.
"We pioneered wireless Internet in
Alaska," Glackin said. The only other wireless Internet provider in Southeast Alaska
is mitkof.net, a Petersburg-based company.
Ice Communications provides Internet service
to the Haines public schools and the Haines city offices.
"What we like the most is the
speed," said Scott Hansen, an administrative assistant with the city of Haines.
"It's been very consistent ... and it's also been very flexible. If we wanted to
expand, the ability to connect new offices with wireless is apparently very simple."
Once a strong reception was established
between the access point and the city offices, the only interruptions the city has
experienced that were directly related to the wireless technology resulted from
atmospheric conditions, Hansen said.
"We have to be careful of snow piling up
around the antenna," he said.
Glackin said Ice Communications is expanding
to Juneau because of its larger market.
"There are endless possibilities for
this technology," Rafferty said.
Some potential uses are police cars sending
live video feed to dispatchers, ambulances sending live video feed to doctors, and cameras
set up in dangerous waterways so boaters know when the weather is bad.
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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