Wi-Fi For the People

Paging political bloggers

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As lovely as the old State Capitol building is, the place had significant limitations for journalists, and interested members of the public.

Just as some people argue that the Legislature is a reservoir for outdated ideas, it also had a way of blocking modern telecommunications.

That's about to change.

Jeff Youtz, director of Legislative Services, said today that his office was working on a way to install free wireless Internet access in the old Ada County Courthouse, where the Legislature will meet for the next two years while the Capitol building gets remodeled.

"I'm pretty confident we can develop a Wi-Fi network here in the annex, as well as in the new Capitol building," Youtz said.

Wi-Fi is short for wireless fidelity, a term used to describe the wireless networks set up in many coffee shops and businesses, that allow computer users to get Internet access through laptops.

Cell phones had also been stymied in the old capitol. Aside from a couple of spots in the main lobby (where conversations echo off the marble pillars and walls), using a cell phone in the Capitol was all but pointless. This was especially true in the basement, where reporters in the Capitol press corps kept their offices.

"It was a bit hit and miss," said Youtz. "It's just a big stone, concrete and marble structure."

Youtz said he's working with architects and builders to see about installing cell phone repeaters in the new Capitol wings, to aid in getting a clearer signal for all callers.