Lancaster unveils new plan to provide free public WiFi throughout the city

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Getting high-speed Internet access in Lancaster is going to get a lot easier.

“We’ve just been chomping at the bit waiting to announce this,” said Charlotte Katzenmoyer who is Lancaster’s Director of Public Works.

Mayor Rick Gray said, “It’s very exciting. It’s something we’ve been working on for six, seven now eight years.”

The city is investing $500,000 to lay down a thousand miles of fiber optic cable over the next 18 months. They're working with a company called MAW Communications. As the work goes on both the city and MAW Communications are expected to invest more money. The network is being built to improve government services like monitoring water meters.

"We're collecting that data say every five minutes. We'll be able to detect if a customer has a leak within their home and have a computer call them and say that they really should get a plumber into the house cause we're detecting a leak," said Katzenmoyer.

That's not the only benefit. The new network will also allow city workers to monitor traffic congestion remotely and be able to adjust lights to make it run more smoothly.

Although the WiFi will be free in public places, families will still have to pay for it in their homes.

"The School District in Lancaster has a high number of students that are currently of low income. We could provide alternatives in their home that would be a lot cheaper for them," said Mayor Gray.

Lancaster resident Melanie Petrosky said, "Some of these big companies charge way too much money for services and I think it will be a good way for more people to get internet service."

She's a mother of five and says the benefits of more affordable Internet can be endless. "Between classes and lessons and textbooks online and shopping. With the way the economy is and everything being more expensive every little bit you can save helps out," said Petrosky.

The mayor said the network could save taxpayers as much as $200,000 a year.