First Posted: 8/3/2012 4:43:31 PM | Last Updated: 8/3/2012 4:43:50 PM
LAFAYETTE – Cutting a cable could mean loss of service, but when Lafayette mayor Tony Roswarski used giant scissors on Thursday morning it did just the opposite. His ceremonial cable-cutting signaled a new era of technology for downtown Lafayette.
Dubbed “Free Wi-Fi on Main Street,” the public/private project between the city of Lafayette and Wintek Corp. brings free Wi-Fi service to downtown Lafayette, from five access points along Main Street from Riehle Plaza to 10th Street. And it’s already up and running.
“My message to our community is: Grab your smart phones, your laptops, whatever electronic devices you count on for your work, studies or connections to family, friends and information, and head downtown,” said Roswarski. “You can use your 21st century electronic devices to your heart’s content in downtown Lafayette.”
Citing a list of all the things users might want to do, from checking email without using cell phone minutes or incurring data charges to working online while lunching, Roswarski said, “Now you can.”
“Want to live in a progressive city with 21st century technology? Now you do,” he told those gathered at Main and Second streets for a news conference.
“The city of Lafayette is providing the equipment, an investment of $14,000 in our future,” Roswarski said. “Our partner, Wintek Corp., is providing a 100 megabit-per-second symmetric Internet connection, which is shared by the access points in the network.”
Dennis Carson, the city’s director of economic development, said, “The city is continually seeking ways to move our city forward, to implement and improve services that will benefit our residents, local businesses and visitors. At the same time, we honor a commitment to operate efficiently, to be cognizant of every dollar we spend. Keeping that balance means being ready for new opportunities and being creative in ways to affordably make them available.”
That’s what is occurring in the partnership with Wintek, Carson said, and it’s an important economic development tool. “This encourages people to come downtown, patronize our businesses and enjoy downtown’s beauty and outdoor spots. Besides being available outdoors, the free Wi-Fi service will be available inside certain businesses near the access points.”
The City is providing window stickers to businesses so their customers will know they can access free Wi-Fi service. Two access points are at Riehle plaza and three along Main Street, at Third, Sixth and Ninth streets.
“The access points at Riehle Plaza have been in place for about a year as part of the video surveillance project,” said Andy Milam, the city’s IT director. “We had fiber optic cable installed at the three Main street intersections as part of the video surveillance and traffic improvement department projects.”
The system can handle about 30 users per access point, about 150 throughout downtown at a time. “We will continue to grow system coverage and capacity by adding more radios,” Milam said.
Using the free Wi-Fi is easy, he said. Anyone using any Wi-Fi enabled device should select Lafayette Public Wi-Fi. Many devices automatically launch their browser and display the use terms. If not, users would manually open the Internet browser of their choice. After reading and agreeing to the terms, users can access the Internet. Users need to agree to those terms each time they connect to the public Wi-Fi network.
“It’s a convenience and service that most cities are only dreaming of,” Milam said. “Here in downtown Lafayette, we can say it’s available now.”
Travis Bailey, chief executive officer of Wintek, said, “Those using the system will experience the best performance when they are closer to one of the five access points. The bandwidth is shared among all users on the system.”
A “heat map” showing Wi-Fi signal service is available on the city’s website, www.lafayette.in.gov .
“Today’s announcement is a first for our region, and one that I know will be welcomed,” Bailey said. “Free Wi-Fi says ‘welcome’ in today’s world.”
Joseph Seaman, president and chief executive officer of Greater Lafayette Commerce, said the new service is a perfect addition in its quest to become a “community of choice.”
“Free Wi-Fi on Main Street says Lafayette is savvy and smart today. It says this is a community with its eyes on the future,” Seaman said. “And to those thinking about locating or launching a business here, it says we are a community on the cutting edge.”