Lincoln, Nebraska free Wi-Fi: muni Wi-Fi with a municipal fiber backhaul

The first phase of the Lincoln, Nebraska free Wi-Fi network was launched last week in Iron Horse Park at the center of the Railyard district. The city plans to expand the free Wi-Fi service to cover the Haymarket and Railyard areas, which have become popular among locals because of a large number of entertainment venues, restaurants and shops in a central location. The SSID of the new free public Wi-Fi network is Lincoln_Free_WiFi_.

If all goes well with the network this summer, the city will extend coverage Centennial Mall, an outdoor renovated pedestrian-friendly public space that links the Capitol building to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. What makes the Lincoln, Nebraska muni Wi-Fi network different from most city-run Wi-Fi networks is this: Lincoln deployed its own fiber network in the downtown area. It shares the fiber network with the local electric utility, the state government and the university. It also leases capacity to telecom carriers. Now, the city uses its fiber capacity as the backhaul for the muni Wi-Fi network.

The investment in a municipal fiber network is part of an ambitious plan to attract large and small businesses to Lincoln, especially tech startups and established firms. The city also hopes to encourage University of Nebraska graduates to stay in Lincoln and start businesses, and to attract young people from other states by offering outstanding wired and wireless broadband facilities, affordable rents and a reasonable cost of living. Because the city owns the fiber network, its businesses and residents are not as dependent upon the telco-cable duopoly as those in other cities. Lincoln can offer independent small ISPs — wired and wireless — lower rates for backhaul connectivity and they, in turn, can sell broadband services at competitive prices. The municipal fiber/Wi-Fi network has many uses other than simply providing Internet access: traffic management, smart grid, “Internet of Things”, public safety, etc.

Our long-term goal is to make Lincoln one of the most connected cities in the nation,” Chris Beutler, the mayor of Lincoln, NE said. “Access to wireless technology in our public spaces for use by residents, visitors and even businesses is becoming an expectation. This public-private partnership gives residents and visitors a reliable Wi-Fi connection in one of the most exciting areas of our community. It’s the first step in our initiative to expand the service to more of the Railyard, Haymarket and West Haymarket area. It also lays the foundation for future wireless connectivity projects.

For the outdoor public Wi-Fi service, the city uses Ruckus Wireless equipment which is connected to the city’s gigabit fiber network.


  1. Same old, same old. Will someone please stand up and do an aggressive, pervasive, low-cost layer 2 retail offload model? Come on, everyone has a mobile layer 2 access device and would pay for it if priced right.