Democracy Has Prevailed.

September 14, 2006

Free Downtown Wi-Fi a Reality in the Burgh

According to the Post-Gazette:
The city's new Wi-Fi network is unique in the nation in that it covers a large, 90-block area, provides two hours of free access daily and allows users to surf at speeds comparable to a DSL modem, according to partnership Chief Executive Officer Michael Edwards.


To log in, anyone with a Wi-Fi transmitter or card needs only click on the wireless icon, then on "Viewable Wireless Networks," and then "Wi-Fi Pittsburgh" and "Connect." Users will go through a registration process and can use the system for as long as two hours free of charge.

For more time, higher speeds and better security, subscribers can pay $7.99 a day, $14.99 a month or $119.99 a year. The operator, US Wireless, makes money on subscriptions and ads.


The partnership is holding free Wi-Fi training sessions next week, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the following locations: Monday at 625 Liberty Ave., Tuesday at Mellon Square, Wednesday at PPG Place, Thursday at Market Square and Friday at Two Gateway Plaza.
If you recall, the city could not directly offer Wi-Fi as:

Last fall, behind closed doors in the state capitol, industry lobbyists slipped a measure into a massive telecommunications bill to stop municipalities from entering the broadband business. "The Verizon bill" - as it was known around the state legislature - sailed through both chambers before city officials and media advocates got wind of its contents. A last-minute compromise carved an exception for Philadelphia, allowing that effort to go ahead as planned, but the rest of the state was shut out.
Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto, Council's point man on Wi-Fi, labored hard to work around the ban and helped bring the free Downtown Wi-Fi plan to fruition. City Council approved a measure in May that that allowed a group of business owners to put wireless fidelity transmitters on light poles in the Downtown area and according to Peduto, included "an incentive to install Wi-Fi access in poorer neighborhoods by waiving the $20 pole fee for companies 'helps to bridge the digital divide,' the notion that poor people have less access to technology than the middle class."

So will WiFi be expanded beyond Downtown?

According to the P-G article:
City Councilman William Peduto characterized the Downtown system as a template for regionwide Wi-Fi. He said he's involved with a Carnegie Mellon University team that's studying how to broaden the system without using "artificial municipal boundaries as walls."

He said talks with nonprofit groups 3 Rivers Connect, the Pittsburgh Technology Council and Wireless Neighborhoods on expanding Wi-Fi continue.


Anonymous said...

This really is great. I'm going to ahve to try it out very soon. Hopefully Mayor Rahevenstahl (sp?) will mention this on Letterman this evening. Maybe he can even give Dave one of those "N@" bumper stickers, to show him how class we really are here in the 'burg.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Wi-Fi by the All Star Game, right?

Wi-Fi, like Portland has had for 2 years, right?

Wi-Fi, except if you are in a building higher than 2 stories.

Wi-Fi would work for students and homework, in neighborhoods. It won't be much of a help for those on the street level -- or with downtown, corporate interests, as it is not secure.

Prediction -- Wi-Fi won't come to the rest of the city any time soon as they just picked our best cherry. I hope to be proven wrong.

Do not check email via an unsecure account via wi-fi as is being offered. Don't even even post to a web blog (like this) and run the risk of an id sniff. :(

Maria said...

Hey Mark,

What happened to that 'Top 10 Reasons Why Ravenstahl Should Be On Letterman' list that you said you were going to do?

Anonymous said...

I love how they're promoting this as "free" wi-fi, like a big-scale public service, when it's really just a private commercial firm's PR lead. Use us free for a couple hours, then we'll start charging you; meanwhile we'll sell all your information to advertisers, just to make sure we're bringing in enough $$$.

What I want to know, is does the city get a cut of the profits? Or are we shilling out tax dollars for this so-called "service"?