Corridor Brings Wi-Fi to the ‘Burbs

Corridor Brings Wi-Fi to the ‘Burbs

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Written By Eric Sandler

By Naomi Graychase

October 07, 2004

A newly deployed wireless network is providing Internet access to a potential base of 195,000 rural and suburban users in Oregon, and that’s only the beginning; plans include eventual consumer voice services.

Thanks to Arizona-based Corridor Communications Marcia Mills, a student and mother of two in the small town of Stayton, Oregon can now do her homework online while watching her kids at the park.

Stayton, which is home to roughly 7,000 people, recently celebrated it’s 103rd birthday—and is now also celebrating its inclusion in a newly deployed broadband wireless network that includes Salem, Dallas, Monmouth, and Independence, Oregon, as well as surrounding towns and suburbs. The total number of potential users is close to 200,000, most of whom are rural and suburban dwellers.

Earlier this year, Corridor Communications acquired Ash Creek Wireless, a Salem-area ISP. Ash Creek offered two primary tower locations and five Hybrid sites, and to those, Corridor has added more access points directed toward the Salem area. These points expand the company’s reach to a large geographic area, which allows customers to roam as far west as Dallas, as far east as Stayton, and north to Albany, a real boon for suburban commuters to the state capitol of Salem, and to rural users like Mills. All sites are connected to a level one provider, which is currently providing 4Mbps of bandwidth.

J. Michael Heil, CEO of Corridor Communications, intends to turn that whole area of the state into a wireless hotspot, accessible only to Ash Creek subscribers.

“We are deploying another 20 access points within the community,” says Heil. “Our goal is not only to have high-speed Internet at home or in the office, but to be able to go to the park, the Safeway store or to your kids’ baseball game and get access. We’re lighting up the whole community.”

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Corridor uses Motorola Canopy 5.7Ghz technology acquired from Ash Creek. “We also use, and a 2.4GHz product in conjunction with the Motorola product—one is the backbone and one is how we deploy to the customer base,” says Heil.

Since rolling out their expanded coverage this summer, Corridor has signed up roughly 300 new wireless customers and over 1,000 dial-up customers. “We’re competing with mega broadband providers, Comcast cable and Qwest ( for DSL)—but they are not ubiquitous and people in the suburbs or rural areas benefit from our roaming—Qwest doesn’t offer it,” says Heil.

The worst obstacle the company has faced during the suburban rollout: the countryside. “Our biggest problem has been dealing with trees and hills. Most of this is direct line of sight,” says Heil.

The solution? As many access points as possible. “Now that we have deployed this and know what we have to deal with when it comes to deployment of wireless Internet service,” says Heil, “we just put in the access points and find the places.”

Pricing for the service is $39.95 per month with no installation fees or set-up fees. With competitive rates and no obligation to sign a service contract, Corridor is providing a low barrier to entry, which is likely to appeal to the dial-up users the company is hoping to woo to its broadband wireless service.

Corridor recently acquired a major cable television system in Arizona, called Cable West, and today moved its corporate headquarters from Oregon to Arizona where the company plans to deploy wireless access to its cable subscribers. The rapidly expanding company also plans to deploy VoIP.

“We recently signed an agreement to distribute voice over IP with California-based Packet8,” says Heil. “We’ll deploy voice over IP in our wireless Salem area, but also in our franchise cable systems. The wireless piece is the core of our business.”

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