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Downtown Wi-Fi bubble moves closer to reality for Greencastle

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The merging of history and technology moved a step closer to reality for downtown Greencastle Wednesday evening.

The first step toward creating a Wi-Fi bubble and providing free Internet access in the historic courthouse square was taken by the Greencastle Redevelopment Commission in approving a $14,487 contract with AirHOP of Greencastle.

AirHOP will provide a wireless signal that can be used to connect up to 30 concurrent downtown users to the Internet.

Upstream bandwidth will be provided by Cinergy Metronet in partnership with AirHOP to facilitate the City of Greencastle project.

The City of Greencastle had included the Wi-Fi bubble possibility in its original Stellar Grant application but it went unfunded in the final approval process, leaving Mayor Sue Murray and others determined to tackle the Wi-Fi project locally.

City officials envision the Wi-Fi bubble as providing access to the Internet for individuals such as businessmen, visitors to downtown, visiting DePauw University alumni and friends, local residents in general or even vendors at the Farmers' Market.

The Wi-Fi would allow them a limited period of access (two two-hour periods per day has been suggested) to check email and browse websites for information and ideas from laptops, iPad, iPhones, etc.

The restricted time period is meant to discourage someone from trying to run his or her business from a free service to be provided by the city, Mayor Murray said.

AirHOP will install the necessary wireless equipment as part of the one-time $14,487 cost. The upstream connection will be located in the Putnam County Courthouse.

"We hope to get it up and running before the end of the year," the mayor said, indicating she will meet again with AirHOP officials on Friday to go over more specifics.

Redevelopment Commission members wondered if access to certain less-desirable websites could be restricted. Mayor Murray said she will ask AirHOP about that as well.

It was also pointed out that the city could adopt similar Internet use regulations to those successfully employed by the Putnam County Public Library.

All those questions will be answered in the future, the mayor assured. Wednesday's motion was designed to cement the relationship with AirHOP and get the physical aspects of the project moving.

As part of the creation of the Wi-Fi bubble, the city will be able to create a landing page that comes up when a user logs onto the free network. That page could include a schedule of upcoming events and/or any timely information in need of dissemination.

In all likelihood it would also prominently include the notation that the free Wi-Fi is being sponsored as a service by the Greencastle Redevelopment Commission and the City of Greencastle.

While the $14,487 is a one-time expense of Redevelopment Funds, city officials may also consider a proposal for an optional monthly monitoring service provided by AirHOP at a proposed rate of $79 per month. AirHOP has the capability of monitoring the system for maximum usage, coverage area and ensuring operational status.

Mayor Murray was asked to find out if such monitoring could detect how many users are online at any one time, which would help determine if the maximum of 30 concurrent users is a reasonable expectation.

Exact range of the Wi-Fi is also yet to be determined, although Mayor Murray said she expects that City Hall, located at Locust and Washington streets, would probably be just beyond the range of the free Wi-Fi. She said previous information indicated that the bubble range would likely end near The Blue Door café (at Washington and Spring streets) on the east edge of the downtown district.

The old jail property at Market and Washington streets would be included in the area, she said, responding to a specific question. However, the new jail on the south side of town would not, she said.

Wi-Fi (short for wireless fidelity) is a mechanism for wirelessly connecting electronic devices. A device enabled with Wi-Fi, such as a personal computer, smartphone, video game console or digital audio player can connect to the Internet via a wireless network access point.

According to Wikipedia, Wi-Fi is now used by more than 700 million people. There are more than four million hotspots (places with Wi-Fi Internet connectivity) around the world, and about 800 million new Wi-Fi devices are sold each year.

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The cost is 300% over the equipment cost. Good deal Mr. Dory. How use people can spend other people's money so easy with no cares. I hope the FREE Wifi reaches the SPEC BUILDING. This is so dumb. Does anyone really think business people visiting Greencastle will take their lap tops downtown to use WIFI?

-- Posted by NeverChanges on Thu, Oct 6, 2011, at 6:32 AM

Why does it cost $15,000 for just 30 concurrent users? Seems a little costly.

-- Posted by just a local on Thu, Oct 6, 2011, at 8:46 AM

I think $15,000 is out of the ballpark! All they need to do is get Cinergy Metro's internet since its fiber optic and place a few routers up around the square if thats what they want. It doesn't need to be as complicated as your wanting to make it. Its not like Indianapolis downtown. I bet if you put a wireless N router on each side of the courthouse that signal will reach as far as they need it. If they are paying $15,000 for 30 users....I would hate to see what an actual business pays or the schools! Does anybody use common sense on these deals and logic? Is $15,000 really that justifiable for internet? I am pretty sure that most of the downtown restaurants provide free wifi already. I think there are other ways to use that money besides literately throwing it in the air.

-- Posted by GreencastleResident on Thu, Oct 6, 2011, at 8:58 AM

I think this is fantastic. I feel that this is finally a step in the right direction. People always complain about where our tax dollars go in this city/county. Those that are complaining probably do not depend on technology to run their business or at least have it available when the need arises. Remember ignorance is not recognized as an arguable defense in this country. I for one will not complain when my tax dollars being used to upgrade the technology in this city. Small towns often get left behind, this is a sign that we are moving forward. As a society today, we depend on information technology in our everyday lives. Without these upgrades we will continue to be lost in the shuffle, as it pertains to our local economy.

I suppose those of you that are against this, are also opposed to Greencastle finally having 3G for our cellphones and wireless connections? We should probably tell AT&T, "Not in our town!" Sounds ridiculus doesn't it....By the way we will have a 3G network very soon....

My comments are not meant to ruffle any feathers, just to make a point that technology should be on the top of the list as our local legislators decide where to distribute our local tax dollars. Spend money where it makes sense and benefits the whole, not just the few entitled. Understand that these things must be done in increments, no one should expect Greencastle to become completely wireless overnight....

-- Posted by ynm_gop on Thu, Oct 6, 2011, at 9:04 AM

Another point, you cannot go the cheap route on this. The equipment must able to handle enough bandwidth so that it does not get jammed up. Everyone wants speed and reliability. I am sure they could have went the cheap route and then the system would fail, and everyone would have thrown a fit. If you are going to do a major upgrade like this, do it right the first time. I am sure there is a labor cost involved as well.

This isn't Indianapolis.....I wonder why, we are living in the stone age when it comes to technology. Good job, Sue....

Before my comments become political, I am a conservative and did not vote for our current Mayor. You must give credit where credit is due.

-- Posted by ynm_gop on Thu, Oct 6, 2011, at 9:15 AM

No I think the people are complaining of the cost. A simple external accesspoint that can be placed at the center and broadcast out to other accesspoints/repeaters costs about 89.00 each and have the ability to wirelessly connect to each other to make a complete bubble over downtown, so there would not be any need to run wires all over the roof of the Courthouse. I do find it odd though with all the eqiipment already up there that they could not already do it.. It is just another last ditch airhop effort to stay afloat. Com on Sue just have your IT staff do it.. It would cost alot less of tax payer dollars and then would be controlled by the staff..so with 5 needed access points at 89.00 per with a controlable distance would cost $445 plus shipping and tax. Add out door cat5 cable at 1.50 a foot and a managed router to only allow users on there for a set time and to throttle what bandwith the user is using would cost a bit but no more that $1000. So now lets move on to installation .. I would guess it would take about 5 hours on the roof and 2 hours at the router. given HOP's pricing that would equate to $1050 (150 an hr) plus misc parts lets say $500. No lets add that up. 445+1000+1050+500=2995 with out the wire cost.. wow what a markup lol I think I will bid this job.

Overly priced and more than likely they will use their old equipment they pulled from VBL. Tax payers you have to wonder why a hammer costs so much.

Please some one give me info on who to contact to bid this..

-- Posted by Oh My Goodness on Thu, Oct 6, 2011, at 9:43 AM

There we go again doing business in the Good o'l Boys style. Don't give others a chance to at least bid?

-- Posted by macvrod on Thu, Oct 6, 2011, at 10:12 AM

Good O'l Boy network??? A couple questions for those who feel left out. Do you actively attend city meetings where these projects are discussed? Have you made sure you are on the correct list for notification to bid projects that are in your field or profession? I am not so sure the so called "Good O'l Boy" network exists. Many want it to to make themselves feel better about sitting on the sidelines. If you want something, professional or personally, YOU have to make it happen. In this case, its not up to the city to make sure you are aware of city projects, its up to you. How do you know the companies listed above didn't work their tails off to make sure they were awarded this project? Simply saying that it was the "Click" method isn't fair to those businesses or their employees.

Make it happen...capt'n!!!

-- Posted by ynm_gop on Thu, Oct 6, 2011, at 1:01 PM

As ynm_gop said, this isn't the same equipment you buy off the shelf at Best Buy.

"Oh My Goodness", your equipment costs are way off. They won't be using some garbage Belkin router that will be hacked in a week or quit working the first time the humidity goes above 80%. This will be enterprise-grade equipment, which will come with long warranties and service contracts and last for many years.

The actual router that will sit in the courthouse and manage the traffic is a substantial cost as well, which you failed to even consider. Again, not a Linksys $89 product, more likely Cisco at closer to $1500.

The cabling will not be your standard Cat5 that you use in your house. It will be plenum cable that is shielded from the elements with a metal (armored) or heavy plastic plenum (conduit). It's not as simple as stringing it across the light poles.

So, before you gasp at the cost for this project, I suggest you call a minimum of 3 network installation contractors, and get bids for this type of job on your property. I'll bet you dinner at Chief's that you'll actually pay MORE than the city did.

-- Posted by Clovertucky on Thu, Oct 6, 2011, at 2:09 PM

And as for the Good Ol' Boy comments, if you don't like HOP's products and services (I don't, and I don't shop there), then why not start your own competing company and take these contracts when they come up for bid? The same people screaming about using HOP will be the same ones screaming about the covered bridge in Bainbridge being rehabbed by an Indianapolis company. "Use local contractors" they say. "Don't use HOP" they say.

-- Posted by Clovertucky on Thu, Oct 6, 2011, at 2:13 PM

Hmmm HOP sold out to Gibson Data...

-- Posted by Oh My Goodness on Thu, Oct 6, 2011, at 2:22 PM

@ Clovertucky the 89 dollars were for the out door access points not the router I do recall doing rough numbers and said the router would be about 1000.

-- Posted by Oh My Goodness on Fri, Oct 7, 2011, at 7:17 AM

In response to the comment by NeverChanges, "Does anyone really think business people visiting Greencastle will take their lap tops downtown to use WIFI?"

I am posting this comment from my laptop at Treasures on the Square downtown. So, yes, people do carry their laptops downtown. In addition, I think people at the Court House awaiting trials, etc. may find it helpful.

There are four eating establishments within the bubble that will benefit from this WIFI. So, I hope lots of people bring their laptops downtown and take advantage of this opportunity and Buy Local!

-- Posted by sddunbar on Fri, Oct 7, 2011, at 11:00 AM

If the wi-fi bubble was omitted or not funded in the stellar grant process, then why do my tax dollars have to be spent. My family is on a tight budget these days and frequently do without wants in order to have our needs met. Please quit throwing visiting DePauw parents and students into the arguement. A downtown wi-fi bubble is not going to be a deciding factor for a potential student, nor is it going to help any out of towner decide where to eat or check their email. I thInk that there are plenty of other places the city could spend 15k if the mayor and other community leaders would just get their heads out of their collective arses and stop trying to cater to the university all the time.

-- Posted by Vernie1 on Fri, Oct 7, 2011, at 2:53 PM

Sadly, this seems to be a bit behind the times. More and more people have 3G or 4G access on their phones and IPADS. Seems a day late and a dollar short.

-- Posted by Has to comment on Sun, Oct 9, 2011, at 3:11 AM

what a stupid waste of money. fund the Away house instead. prioritize people.

-- Posted by retinula on Sun, Oct 9, 2011, at 5:04 PM

This does seem like a waste of money....You could basically accomplish the same thing with 5 access points...located INSIDE downtown businesses. Assuming everyone could jump on board. You could essentially just have a 100 dollar or so access point on each side of the square and one located at the courthouse and have create virtually the same bubble for a fraction of the cost...and my guess is that the "infrastructure" is already there...you would just have to buy some good access points. But you would need to have some kind of contract with someone to manage it and repair things as they break. But honestly...Hotels have been doing this for years with a cheap linksys router...

-- Posted by J_Mason on Tue, Oct 11, 2011, at 3:32 PM

all this fuss about free internet and there are still people in the county who can not get cable because not enough people live on thier road. No cable equals no internet except for dial up or satellite. I travel to GC frequently and the lack of 3G and even the old E is the most frustrating thing.

-- Posted by bradsdad on Wed, Oct 12, 2011, at 3:47 PM

How many places on the square already have WiFi?

-- Posted by Sharon@hotmail.com on Thu, Oct 13, 2011, at 8:19 AM

Does this mean they can stop their services and just piggy back on the city service?

-- Posted by Sharon@hotmail.com on Thu, Oct 13, 2011, at 8:32 AM
Response by Eric Bernsee:
Hardly since they are limited to two hours per session, twice per day under the proposed rules.

Sounds like it, if you want to be 1 of 30 that can log on & for only 2 hours, 2 times per 24 hours. Any new info on this.

-- Posted by macvrod on Thu, Oct 13, 2011, at 9:29 AM
Response by Eric Bernsee:
No change, but that is the preliminary plan right now. Two hours per time, twice a day. It is not meant for someone to try to run their business through it.

If businesses now have wi-fi and anyone can use this to log onto their laptops, then why do we need this new service downtown at 15,000 and only be able to use it for a short time? People already sit around the square in their cars and utilize the free wi-fi and and in the many business that supply wi-fi free of charge. Check it out. People come up at all hours to check their e-mails when they don't have internet at their homes.

-- Posted by Sharon@hotmail.com on Thu, Oct 13, 2011, at 1:54 PM

I'm willing to bet quite a few business could actually operate off the Free wifi...since most of them don't need a real time live connection...but only need it periodically throughout the day....

and if you think 30 is connections is going to be enough you are sadly mistaken....think of all the smartphone users that are going to tap into this free wifi to keep their data charges down....

-- Posted by J_Mason on Wed, Oct 19, 2011, at 12:50 PM

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