Commissioners not sold on cost of distributing wireless Internet

The idea of providing wireless Internet access to every square inch of Douglas County is appealing to some local leaders.

The price tag for doing it, however, is not.

“Other than the crippling financial costs, I think it would be a wonderful thing,” said City Commissioner Sue Hack. “I do think the Internet has the ability to be a great equalizer.”

Johnson County leaders have been told it takes about $200,000 to $250,000 per square mile to build a wireless network. With 474 square miles in Douglas County, that would equate to about $95 million.

At those prices, City Commissioner David Schauner isn’t advocating such a project. But he does like that some communities are starting to think about widespread wireless. He said it would make sense for governments and the private sector to study providing wireless access along the entire K-10 corridor, if it truly is poised to become the state’s next economic engine.

And Schauner said he could make a case that the government – not just the private sector – has a role in providing Internet access to residents.

“I think the Internet ultimately is going to be about as important as having water, electricity and other public utilities,” Schauner said. “I do think this has future written all over it.

“And I do think government probably has some role to play. Whether it is making ground available or running it all themselves, I don’t know.”

Patrick Knorr – general manager for Sunflower Broadband, which is owned by the Journal-World’s parent company, The World Company – said there’s really no need for government to get into the wireless Internet business.

Sunflower offers 42 hotspots where the public can access the Internet for free.

“I’m not sure people realize that downtown already is almost completely saturated with free wireless Internet access,” Knorr said. “I think what needs to happen more is that government needs to work more with private companies to coordinate and promote what the community already has.”

For a list of Sunflower Broadband’s wireless hotspots, go to

Many communities have done wireless projects as part of public-private partnerships, and most recoup a portion of the costs by charging users to access the network.