Mobilisa wins bid to build broadband backbone

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Intellicheck Mobilisa Inc., a national technology company located south of Port Townsend, has won the bid to build the wireless broadband backbone that supporters say will improve connectivity and expand technological options for the North Olympic Peninsula.

“If someone wants to work remotely from another area or set up a business here, they will have that option,” said Barney Burke, commissioner with the Jefferson County Public Utility District, which awarded the contract Dec. 11.

“This will put us on a level playing field with other areas,” Burke said.

Mobilisa was awarded the wireless contract worth $671,962 from the PUD and the Northwest Open Access Network — or NoaNet — for the construction of the wireless broadband network, which is expected to be operational by August.

The network is specifically focused on improving wireless broadband access for governmental, medical, educational, public safety as well as other important social services, according to Burke.

“There are a lot of important uses for broadband, including streaming video, telemedicine and distance learning,” Burke said.

“It will allow people in Jefferson County to have a remote classroom experience that is high quality instead of the herky-jerky video connections they have today.”

Burke said there was one other bidder. That bidder submitted a higher bid than Mobilisa and had a proposal that serviced a smaller area.

Tap into NoaNet

To build the network, Mobilisa will tap into the NoaNet broadband backbone in two places and then set up about 30 wireless stations in schools, public buildings and public safety locations.

The wireless signal will be transmitted across terrain using communications towers that are already in place.

“There are a lot of locations in Jefferson County that are hard to get to, where it would be difficult or expensive to lay the fiber-optic cable,” said Nelson Ludlow, Mobilisa president and CEO and one of the company’s founders.

“One of the good things about our location is that there are lots of mountaintop towers that we can use to transmit the signal to remote places.”

Ludlow said the challenge of using wireless to transport broadband is that it often requires line of sight between radios.

“Trees and hills can block out the signal, so it takes proper planning to best choose radio locations,” he said.

“Anytime you increase bandwidth for the community, it creates jobs for the community,” he said.

Ludlow added that improving broadband infrastructure to Jefferson County will give schoolchildren greater access to information, Jefferson Healthcare hospital the ability to send information such as CT scans more quickly to get medical advice from experts miles away, dispatchers the ability to transmit more information to emergency services before they arrive on scene and “provides an infrastructure of collaboration and communication for innovative companies in our community.”

Burke said the PUD is not licensed to provide broadband to individuals and businesses on a retail level but that it would offer it to other providers on a wholesale basis.

Upgraded networks

Burke said both Wave Broadband and CenturyLink recently have upgraded their networks but would connect with the new broadband system as a backup.

This would prevent a recurrence of a Dec. 1 outage caused by a dump truck that severed a single fiber-optic cable south of Port Townsend and knocked out phone and Internet service for all of the town for several hours.

“We have competed and won other wireless work around the country, so we are very honored to have had the opportunity to compete and be selected to build a wireless network for our neighbors and friends in Jefferson County,” Ludlow said.

On Friday, Ludlow said there was no new information about a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into “certain trading in securities of the company” during 2012.

He reiterated his statement that the company itself was not under investigation.

Ludlow returned last month as CEO after taking over for Steve Williams, who is no longer with the company.

Williams’ departure followed Intellicheck Mobilisa’s Nov. 8 financial report in which the company disclosed that it lost $381,296 on revenue of $2.1 million for the quarter ending Sept. 30.

Ludlow has told shareholders not to expect a turnaround of the company’s financial situation by the end of the year.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 22. 2012 5:42PM
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