Downtown Wi-Fi bubble to remain intact another year
Despite the ever-changing world of technology and its now-ubiquitous Wi-Fi, the bubble has not burst over downtown Greencastle.
In fact, the free Wi-Fi bubble, established by the City of Greencastle as a companion project to the Stellar Community Grant work in the downtown, has been renewed for another year.
The Greencastle Redevelopment Commission took that renewal action at its recent December meeting, agreeing to a $948 annual contract with HOP Telecom.
However, the decision did not come with out discussion and some insight from John Hendrich of HOP Telecom.
Hendrich offered usage graphs, showing the Wi-Fi use in the downtown fluctuates from quarter to quarter, demonstrating a downturn in the third quarter and rebound in the fourth quarter.
"It's important to look at it over a running eight-quarter period," he said. "You get a little better trend that way."
However, he cautioned that there "couldn't be a worse place" to try and track usage than the courthouse area.
There are 25-35 different access points around the square that create interference now, Hendrich said, noting that many downtown businesses, such as Starbucks, Shuee's, Almost Home and the Banner Graphic have their own access.
Turning up the sector power of the Wi-Fi bubble, he said, would not be a good alternative as it would likely interfere with those businesses' Wi-Fi operations.
And trying to coordinate the various Wi-Fi access by assigning businesses to certain channels would be futile, Hendrich told the commission.
"As soon as you'd need to reboot your router, it would all be lost," he reasoned.
Hendrich said he entertained the notion of turning up the power slightly but he remains reluctant to do so because of the interference it would likely create.
"So what's our best bet?" City Attorney Laurie Hardwick asked. "What we have?"
Hendrich conceded as much.
"What's the goal of the Wi-Fi bubble?" Hardwick then asked the group.
And Mayor Sue Murray was quick to respond.
"To provide a point of information access," she said of the free local service.
Over the years the city received a number of complaints from users not being able to access the Wi-Fi bubble when needed.
"We're not getting as many complaints now," the mayor said, "because they're finding other options."
However, she cautioned against ending the Wi-Fi bubble and eliminating its $948 annual expense for maintenance and oversight.
"I think you're going to see more people coming into town with what is planned (for development) over the next 12 months," she told the commission.
Commission Chairman Erika Gilmore noted that Wi-Fi bubble usage for 2015 computes to $2 per person.
Making the motion to keep the Wi-Fi bubble and the service contract with HOP Telecom, Drew Brattain pointed to the goal of the undertaking.
"The goal was to have an option for people to get on Wi-Fi without having to go to a specific business," Brattain said, adding his preference was to "keep it."
Tanis Monday agreed, seconding the motion, which Gilmore made unanimous.
Commission members Gary Lemon and Gwen Morris were absent.