(Federal Computer Week) Atlanta will offer citywide wireless Internet service within three years if recently approved plans to build a for-pay network come to fruition.The Atlanta city council passed legislation allowing city officials to go ahead with Atlanta FastPass, the official title of the city’s WiFi initiative. It will first be established at city hall and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and then rolled out to other areas around the city.

Biltmore Communications, the Atlanta service provider that will build the network and manage the wireless service, already provides both wired and wireless broadband services in the area and its wireless hotspots will eventually be integrated into the network.

Users will be able to opt for a variety of access plans, from day passes to a monthly subscription. The city also hopes to attract other service providers through roaming agreements to provide their customers with access through FastPass.

As well as an added attraction for businesses and Atlanta’s important tourist trade, the city is also looking to the new network to help it with more basic problems. The network brings important benefits to the community as a whole, such as workforce development, educational enrichment and bridging the digital divide, said Jabari Simama, executive director of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s office of community technology.

Development of citywide wireless networks are starting to gather pace, though Atlanta is one of the biggest yet to make an announcement. Smaller cities such as Cerritos in California have also decided to go wireless, though the only comparable Atlanta-sized city so far to announce its intentions has been Cleveland, which plans to deliver wireless to all its areas by 2006 through a network called OneCleveland.