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.