Free wireless Internet access launches in downtown Columbia

Friday, May 17, 2013 | 2:43 p.m. CDT; updated 4:43 p.m. CDT, Saturday, May 18, 2013

COLUMBIA —  Free wireless Internet access is now available in the public areas along Broadway and Ninth Street and around Flat Branch Park.

Columbia's Downtown Community Improvement District used funds from a recent half-percent sales tax increase to install Wi-Fi as part of a six-month pilot project.

A future installation is planned for early summer at the Boone County Courthouse Plaza. This will give access to people using the new picnic tables or attending a performance.

The District will determine permanent status based on feedback, said Carrie Gartner, CID director. She said the pilot costs $1,295 per month for seven transmitters. 

"We wanted to put the Wi-Fi in high-pedestrian areas and see what response we get," Gartner said.

Gartner said if  the response is positive, the District will install seven more transmitters in addition to the seven already in place. The transmitters are smaller than a laptop and installed on the rooftops of downtown buildings, she said.

A small, unofficial test of the new Wi-Fi access generated mixed results. The signal was strong and easily accessible at the intersection of Hitt Street and Broadway. Near Ninth Street and Broadway, however, connectivity failed. 

The wireless network is listed under the name "District Free Wi-Fi."  Gartner said Full Stream Wireless representatives rely on online tracking devices and resident feedback to monitor the transmitters frequently. 

No password is necessary to gain access.

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