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Public Works approves Uptown SiFi Networks site for communication hut

SiFi huts to help with broadband connectivity around city

KENOSHA ⏤ While the state Legislature faces issues of broadband access in rural areas, Kenosha officials are looking to decrease broadband deserts within the heart of the city with communication huts. 

On Monday, the city Public Works Committee listened to an explanation of a new broadband hut, a SiFi Networks Communication Hut, that would be located in the Uptown neighborhood. 

Located at 6200 24th Ave., this hut would join two others in the city limits. 

According to Mayor John Antaramian and project manager for the city Ed St. Peter, in the most basic terms, these huts relay to cabinets that then funnel broadband internet to locations throughout the city limits. 

The Public Works Committee unanimously approved placing the hut at the location Monday. 

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SiFi communication huts explained

In seeking the location’s approval, St. Peter explained that the city needed the formal approval as part of an agreement already approved with SiFi Networks. 

“Part of the agreement is that, between SiFi and the city, we needed to come up with locations for three huts within the city, and they had to fit in certain areas to fit into their business model,” St. Peter said. 

“Each one of the huts will service up to 25,000 customers.”

Though only two huts are required, SiFi will place three, which is advantageous for Kenosha, St. Peter said.

Uptown hut located on Brown National Bank property

The three hut locations include one in Nash Park, approved by the Parks Committee Monday; one at the Kenosha Transit Center, approved by the Transit Commission; and the third in Uptown, located at the old Brown National Bank property. 

“If you go down to the location map,” St. Peter said, “the Brown National Bank is on 23rd Avenue and 63rd Street. On the northeast corner is the bank itself and then part of the purchase of the Brown National Bank is also the drive-thru, which is on the west side of 23rd Avenue. And you see the location map there where the proposed location of the hut is along with the drive.”

In fact, after chairman Ald. Mitchell Pedersen asked about the drive-thru building on the old property, St. Peter said that crews plan to place the hut where that structure used to be.

“The proposal at this point is to put it right where that building was,” St. Peter said. “Before we closed on the building, the prior owner was required to tear the building down. So right now, the building is down and it’s just been back-filled with dirt. It’s a really good location for it because then they would take care of fixing the drive and the rest of that. 

“So it would be pretty much in the same location as the building that was there for the drive-thru.”

Bogdala questions connectivity to the west

In looking at the location maps for the three SiFi huts in the city, Dist. 17 Ald. David Bogdala asked if SiFi believed that the three huts would be able to service customers effectively on the west end of the city. 

“I guess, this is not so much about this specific location, but I noticed you got Nash Park, Transit and then this location here; you got nothing west of Green Bay Road. Are you telling me that all of that is going to service west of Green Bay Road?”

Scott Kamali, SiFi’s project manager, assured Bogdala, and all the aldermen, that “everyone will be covered.”

“Those huts go along with these cabinets that we also installed. So we have a number of cabinets that go through the city as well. The huts serve more as a main hub of distribution with some 50 cabinets or so that will be throughout the city.

“So the entirety of the city will be (covered). We will go through every unit that is within the city limits.”

St. Peter responds to Bogdala; SiFi explains details of how huts connect

St. Peter also responded to Bogdala’s questioning, having had similar thoughts himself. 

“To get to your point, I asked that same question that you asked,” he said to Bogdala. “You know, why are they this far east? Their answer was it’s how they hook things up and, no disrespect to you, but they said the same thing to me: ‘We know what we’re doing. These are in the right locations for where we need to go.’”

Kamali also explained how the fiber optic system works to offer access to all of the locations within the city limits. 

“These hub locations are where all of our distributions go into,” Kamali said. “Every particular unit has its own distribution. If I can summarize it: We have a network of 3 shelters (huts), and then those go out to the 30- or 40-some cabinets, depending on the size of the city. From each one of those cabinets, we have a fiber that goes directly to each unit.

“Commercial’s a little bit different, but definitely on residential you have a single fiber that goes to each unit. Each cabinet services a thousand units.”

Therefore, the system is “more of a distribution.” 

“The fiber that is running throughout the whole city is sort of what connects everything,” Kamali said. “So this is not like cellular in terms of where you have any RF waves or anything. It’s all communicated underground through the fiber network.”

Huts not expected to make noise, even when generator running

Dist. 16 Ald. Dominic Ruffalo questioned how loud the generator on the huts would be. 

In response, a SiFi Networks official stated that the huts will put out a sound at about 64 decibels. This is “pretty much relative to ambient noise in the neighborhood,” they said. 

“Like Scott said, they will be cycled once a month for half an hour for maintenance purposes,” the official said during the meeting. “And there is no humming or any other noise generated from within the shelter that the public possibly could hear even standing next to it.”

24-hour surveillance

SiFi secures the huts on its end through surveillance cameras. However, SiFi expects the city to help shield the hut with proper fencing. 

“They have a 24-hour monitoring through cameras,” Kamali said. “They have a light-up system. But we also want additional support and some sort of perimeter ⏤ whether that be any type of fence or a block wall. Something that will secure the facility is preferable. 

“Because this is our hut,” he added. “Although it’s unlikely that you could gain entrance, we’d still prefer that it remains secure. And also for vandalism purposes.”

Will come back for final approval of design

The issue will next come back before the Public Works Committee for members to approve its final design.

While some members made some elements clear, such as not desiring a cyclone fence, they can also give other input before it comes back in its final form.

“In terms of what we can do as far as aesthetics and perimeter, we’re happy to work with you guys,” Kamali said. “But what we always like to say is, you know, we can’t build you a castle with a mote, but we can definitely work with you to make it look nice. 

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