Lame Wi-Fi Town Steps it Up

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Well, I am loving having to write this article, because my hometown has stepped up its game. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article titled “I live in a lame wi-fi town.” This was written out of frustration that I couldn’t find anywhere to be wireless for free. Then I received an email several weeks later, that simply stated ” Wi-Fi Downtown Pittsburgh,” as I read this it seems Pittsburgh has become free wi-fi enabled, it allows the user a free two hour session. The user can use their 2 hours free all at once or throughout the day.

Not only is this awesome for me, but it is awesome for Pittsburgh as well. The city has succeeded in two major ways. First, they said they were going to make downtown wi-fi enabled and they did. Which shows a city that is following through on their promise to its community. Secondly, they have accomplished what a lot of cities have not been able to do; they worked through the political and technology barriers to get it done.

Here are a few reasons why other cities should step it up as well, since the launch on September 13th:
– 2300 people have signed up for a free wi-fi downtown account in less than a month
– There have been over 3500 user sessions, which translates into:
– Approximately 92 people on the system at one time
– About 80 users during the day
– About 40 users at night

– Log-on times are generally between 11-noon and 1-2 pm, seems people are using their wi-fi hours on their breaks.
– It is keeping people downtown longer, which translates into more money being spent downtown.
– Users are finding that the Wi-Fi system is reaching into buildings downtown and even onto the riverboats. So far the riverboat people have said they have yet to find a “dead spot” on the water.

Pittsburgh had 3 major issues to overcome:
– Money
– Public Access
– Finding the right Wi-Fi company

Money
-The money was the easiest part

Public Access
-Securing approval was a bit difficult, just because it was a long process
-Politically, the city was on board, because it was seen as a way to improve business development and a big part of restoring downtown.
-Public Works had to be involved, because the equipment had to be placed on street poles
– The set-up of the Wi-Fi system had to be designed so neighborhoods could not be cherry-picked. Meaning, for every system that is placed on a street pole, a fee has to be paid. This would leave the wealthier neighborhoods with Wi-Fi and disadvantaged neighborhoods with nothing.

The system has been designed that disadvantaged neighborhoods will have the fee waived. This ensures that ALL neighborhoods and communities will receive Wi-Fi no matter the income level. The system is working, as part of the lower hill district has Wi-Fi and this is considered a disadvantaged neighborhood. Cool neighborhood though, don’t let the word disadvantage fool you.

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