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Public Wi-Fi spots coming to county through system overhaul

NATCHEZ — Adams County’s government buildings in downtown Natchez will soon become public Wi-Fi hotspots.

County Information Technology Director Lance Bishop said the wireless access would be provided as part of the county’s ongoing technology overhaul.

“In the county courtrooms, we are getting to where more and more of the lawyers and defendants want to access the Internet, and so many people now have smartphones and they leave their wireless on and connect to whatever is around,” Bishop said. “We had so many people getting on the wireless here that it was beginning to create issues.”

The public wireless system will be installed in part using components that are part of the new phone system Bishop is installing.

“In order to save money, I bought a wireless solution that I did not have to buy a lot of components for, but it is dependent on some newer switch technology that is on the phone system,” he said.

The wireless system will allow the public to access the Internet, but it won’t allow them into the county network at all. The current wireless system — which is not open — nonetheless has security problems that the new system will address, Bishop said.

The phone system that the wireless system will tie into will replace most of the county’s standard business lines with a voice-over-IP system.

“Right now we have probably 150 phone numbers and a lot of those are standard business lines, and those business lines cost $50 a month,” Bishop said. “When you start talking about a couple hundred of those, it starts add up.”

But Bishop said for $800, he could install a circuit that allows the county to — with access to a T-1 line — become its own mini-phone company with up to 200 phone numbers.

“On that system, I can only have 24 active outgoing phone calls at one time, but that is not a problem — I have already done a study here and normally we are only running 9-10 calls a time at the county; when we did the (phone call audit), calls spiked at 16, so to be able to run (that system) at the limitation of 24 calls is not a big deal and at tremendous cost savings — we are going to cut our phone bill in half.”

Bishop said over the course of the year he has found ways to save the county approximately $180,000 in maintenance costs by replacing old equipment, making sure all equipment was on the same system and was compatible and better allocating server capabilities.

The new county website — which will allow residents to pay fines and fees online — should also be available in the next 30 to 45 days, he said.