There's a lot of "coulds" in this story about how the city of Houston hopes to integrate its new WiFi network into existing functions, but there's some meat to it as well:
Richard Lewis, the city's director of information technology, uses this as an example: It now costs the city $45 per month for each wireless card provided to building and restaurant inspectors so they can do computer work from the field. Under the EarthLink agreement, monthly subscriptions would cost $10.
City employees who work from their offices now use wired Internet, and they would continue to do so even after wireless becomes available, Lewis said. Wireless would be used mainly by mobile employees.
He said the city and EarthLink plan security measures to preserve the integrity of wireless city communications.
Police officers and firefighters, as well as many other mobile workers, don't have Internet access from their vehicles now because it's too expensive.
So while police can access certain databases and communicate with dispatch and other vehicles from their patrol cars, their computers can pull up only limited text.
With Wi-Fi, as wireless Internet is called, they could look at photos of suspects, use more databases and other crime analysis tools, access maps and perhaps even watch real-time videos of crime scenes.
Paramedics, emergency medical technicians and firefighters would have similar benefits.
They could send live video feeds of fires to the command center, use satellite images to understand building or property layouts and access other Internet-based information from their trucks.