I guess it's harder than we realize to set up free wi-fi zones in the city
NoMA Business Improvement District's recent announcement about offering free wi-fi in the public spaces in their district reminded me when I was a Main Street program manager that we were looking to do something like that in Brookland, possibly with the local universities there, but I didn't stick around and the program went defunct.
And I have wondered why we don't do this in the downtown area and at various parks and plazas around the city.
But this article "D.C. Neighborhood First in City to Launch Free Wi-Fi" from the Digital Communities website about the project tells us that it was a lot of work for the NoMA BID to pull this off, that they had to dedicate one full-time person to the project for about one year. From the article:
The launch on April 2 was the first phase of the rollout and provides access to roughly six streets -- streets considered the neighborhood's core. The current set up can easily support up to 1,000 concurrent users, with data speeds of 200 Mbps, according to the district. Users should be able to stream high definition video throughout the neighborhood while outside, unless they are in a fast-moving vehicle or the network is particularly congested, Jasper said.
Though the official cost of the network has not yet been tabulated, Jasper said that it was expensive, despite a lot of local support from government agencies and community members. The network was more than one year in development, with one staff member who dedicated almost all her working hours for that year on the project. The rollout was funded entirely by district member dues, as well as supported by commodity contributions from the community.
The article discusses some of the difficulties, how they worked with an out-of-town vendor to set up the system because of limited expertise for such projects being available locally, etc.
One of the points I make about "soft networking," is that DC has lots of groups, like Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, or business improvement districts, Main Street commercial district revitalization programs, and friends of libraries and friends of parks groups, but we tend to not share expertise across the groups.
Hopefully that could happen from this project, that the NoMA BID can share its expertise and help more areas of the city develop wi-fi access programs.