What is Wireless Alexandria?

Wireless Alexandria is a pilot project by the City of Alexandria, Virginia, to provide free wireless Internet access to the public in specific outdoor areas. The goals of the project are to:

  • Provide a convenient public service to users;
  • Stimulate economic development and tourism by drawing visitors to the coverage area;
  • Promote Alexandria's image as a high-tech community; and
  • Test the feasibility of wireless devices for municipal use.

Wireless Alexandria is believed to be the first wide area, free wireless Internet zone in the Washington, D.C. region, and the largest in Virginia.

What can I do with Wireless Alexandria?

With Wireless Alexandria, you can check your e-mail, learn about Alexandria attractions, or hold a business meeting while enjoying outdoor dining. You can do anything with Wireless Alexandria that you can do with your normal Internet connection.

What devices are compatible with
Wireless Alexandria?

Wireless Alexandria is available to anyone using a "Wi-Fi"-enabled laptop or personal digital assistant (PDA). Wi-Fi devices (also known as 802.11 devices) can connect to the Internet wirelessly, without the need for any cords or cables. Many new laptops and PDAs come standard with Wi-Fi capability. Laptops (and some PDAs) without the feature can be upgraded for $50-$100 at any computer store. Wireless Alexandria is compatible with both 802.11b and 802.11g. No special software is needed; just use your normal e-mail program or web browser.

How do I connect to Wireless Alexandria?

To connect to Wireless Alexandria, simply turn on your Wi-Fi-enabled laptop or PDA in the coverage area, and make sure the wireless capability is active. Your device should alert you to the availability of one or more wireless networks. If you have turned off this alert feature, you may need to open your wireless connection program to see a list of networks. Choose the network with the name (SSID) "WirelessAlexandria" and launch your e-mail program or web browser. It’s that easy!

What is the Wireless Alexandria coverage area?

Wireless Alexandria covers the King Street corridor in Old Town between Washington Street and the waterfront, including Market Square and the City Marina. Depending on building locations and other conditions, coverage will be available for some distance around that corridor in each direction. If the pilot project is successful, coverage may be expanded to other public spaces and pedestrian corridors in the City.

Due to the need for equipment upgrades, service is currently unavailable at the City Marina and may be unavailable in other parts of the coverage area.

Wireless Alexandria is also available at all Alexandria public library branches.

If my home or business is in the coverage area, will Wireless Alexandria replace my existing Internet access?

No. Wireless Alexandria is optimized for outdoor use. Although some indoor users may be able to connect to the system, the service is not intended to compete with commercially available Internet service and should not replace existing home or business Internet access. The network is not secured, which means that sensitive personal or financial information sent across the network will not be encrypted. Commercial Internet service is more appropriate for these types of uses.

How can I get more information about Wireless Alexandria?

For assistance or additional information about Wireless Alexandria, contact Alexandria E-Government Manager Craig Fifer at 703.746.3965, or e-mail Wireless Alexandria.

How else is technology used in Alexandria?

Alexandria is a place where technology thrives and is an integral part of doing business. Attracted by a business-friendly and fiscally responsible government (one of only a handful in the country with a double AAA bond rating), the seventh-most educated workforce in the United States, and an outstanding quality of life, more than 200 technology companies, employing approximately 10,000, call Alexandria home. The City offers tax breaks for technology companies doing research and development, and it created the first enterprise zone in Northern Virginia to provide companies with substantial state tax credits, grants, and other benefits.

In just 16 square miles, Alexandria is home to nearly 400 professional associations – the fourth largest concentration in the United States. From the Aeronautical Repair Station Association to the Wireless Location Industry Association, many of these organizations contribute to the nationwide advancement of technology in their respective fields. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has begun its move to a new, state-of-the-art headquarters in Alexandria. With 7,100 employees and five buildings, the complex is the largest federal lease of real estate in U.S. history. Business creativity and innovation is recognized and protected every day in Alexandria.

Alexandria was one of the first localities in Virginia with an Internet presence, and the City’s web site at alexandriava.gov is a one-stop source for information about local government services and issues. Visitors can check out funside.com to learn about attractions, recreation, dining, lodging, and shopping on “The Fun Side of the Potomac.”

The City’s Institutional Network (I-Net) is a citywide, fiber-optic backbone that provides a variety of data, voice, and video communications capabilities to the City government and public schools. The I-Net, which was the first network of its kind in Virginia, now connects nearly 95 municipal and educational facilities.

Citywide Wireless Network Franchise

Important Dates
5/9/06
First reading of ordinance to advertise draft franchise and invite bids
(View Docket and Video)
5/20/06
Bidding opened after public hearing and adoption of ordinance
(View Docket and Video)
6/8/06
Deadline to submit questions to be answered at pre-bid conference
6/906
Optional pre-bid conference
6/16/06
Deadline to submit remaining questions
6/19/06
Answers posted on this site
6/23/06
Deadline to submit bids
6/27/06
City received 10 bids and City Council referred them to staff for evaluation and recommendation
(Docket Item | Video)
July-Nov 2006
Staff negotiated franchise agreement with preferred bidder
11/28/06
Recommended franchise agreement approved by City Council on first reading
(Docket Item | Video)
12/16/06
Public hearing on recommended franchise agreement, and franchise awarded by City Council to EarthLink, Inc.
(Docket Item | Video)

Since April 2005, the City of Alexandria has provided the Washington, DC, region’s first free, outdoor, wireless Internet zone, as detailed on this site. Based on the success of this pilot project, the need for a municipal wireless network, and the City’s desire to increase broadband Internet access and options for all types of users, the City sought to grant a franchise, in the manner prescribed by state law, to permit the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of a citywide wireless network in the public rights-of-way and on other public property.

After a competitive bidding process, City Council awarded a franchise to EarthLink, Inc., in December 2006, to build such a network. In addition to providing greater consumer choice, the arrangement would have resulted in $13 million of benefits to the community, with no taxpayer funding, over the franchise's initial eight-year term. Unfortunately, EarthLink decided during 2007 that it no longer wished to pursue this business model nationwide and notified the City that it did not intend to honor its contract with Alexandria.

The City is keeping close watch of the national wireless marketplace to see where the industry is heading. We remain hopeful that the market will see additional choices soon. Please e-mail us with any questions regarding this project.

News Releases

Reference Documents