Council considers Wi-Fi for downtown
Thomasville City Council is revisiting the possibility of bringing Wi-Fi service to the downtown area.
Council discussed the idea of free wireless Internet to downtown a few years ago, but backed away when cost estimates exceeded $20,000. Talks resurfaced at council's annual retreat on Feb. 2 as the service has become more affordable.
Councilman Raleigh York said he has looked into a new service that would link other Wi-Fi networks in the downtown area and provide a stronger signal.
"We had two companies gives us a price on bringing Wi-Fi to the downtown area and it was way over $20,000 to install it," York said. "That was more money than we were wanting to put in it. I heard about a new network called a Wi-Fi Mesh Network. I just wanted to put that idea out there. We're going to see if it has an application for us to get a wider Wi-Fi coverage uptown."
Many businesses already offer Wi-Fi as a way to attract customers, and York feels it could work the same way for the downtown area.
"We've got the bandstand and benches set up all around PACE Park and the amphitheater," said York. "[Wi-Fi] may bring them downtown where they then could go get a cup of coffee, a sandwich or do a little shopping."
Councilman Scott Styers said the decision to offer the service will be based on several factors, the first being cost. Another question is how viable Wi-Fi service will be in the coming years as technology continues to evolve. Styers said he would hate to see council spend money on a service that is no longer needed in a few years.
"I think it has some possibilities," Styers said. "We're looking at the sustainability of it. Is the need going to be around 10 to 20 years down the road. If you're going to make an investment you obviously don't want something that's going to be obsolete in a couple of years. If you had asked me in 1980 about Internet and email I'd have said you were crazy. Technology has changed so much. If we make an investment we want to make sure it's viable in the coming years. "
Another consideration is whether or not the city would be competing against local businesses in the downtown area by offering the service.
"Businesses like Monkeez Brew uses Wi-Fi as a drawing card to its customers," said Styers. "If the city enters that realm, are we taking away an advantage some individual businesses might have. All of that is part of the discussion."
Styers said he would like more information on the success of other municipalities which have implemented the service.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.