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4 Benefits of Wi-Fi Initiatives


Local governments across the country are showcasing their open access hot spots, smart transportation systems, and other Wi-Fi initiatives. In light of this trend, Route Fifty recently reported on a webinar about how cities with Wi-Fi initiatives need to take into account frequency capacity. Webinar panelist Harold Feld, senior vice president of the nonprofit digital advocacy group Public Knowledge, stated that while local governments should take capacity into account, there still needs to be an effort by local leaders to develop more Wi-Fi initiatives. Here are 4 reasons local governments should answer Feld’s call to action.

Acquiring Data for Economic Development Planning

When designing economic development programs, local governments need to make use of as much information and data as possible to ensure they are responsibly spending tax dollars. In Park City, Utah, developers are using an advanced sensor network that detects passing Wi-Fi signals to better understand travel patterns among citizens and visitors.  They will then use this data to better inform their economic development plans.

Attracting Businesses and Citizens

Local governments create public Wi-Fi initiatives, such as that in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to attract businesses and citizens to their community. One of the more innovative efforts was in New York City, New York, where the partnership LinkNYC is converting old underused pay phones into Wi-Fi hot spots.

Bridging the Digital Divide of Neighborhoods

Increasing access to Wi-Fi can help improve the quality of life in distressed neighborhoods and should be considered when developing a transformation plan.  This issue brief from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showcases how Boston, Massachusetts, Choice Neighborhood funding was used to increase wireless connectivity in the underserved neighborhood of Dorchester.

Increasing Ridership on Public Transportation

Ridership generally has been trending down recently, and Wi-Fi on public transit may be a way to turn that trend around. Chicago, Illinois, for example, has begun testing free Wi-Fi on their rail service after a recent study showed that passengers were interested in the service.  Local leaders are hoping this will further satisfy existing riders and attract new ones.

One caution: When developing Wi-Fi initiatives it’s always important to focus on protecting users from cybercrime.

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Douglas Shontz

Knowledge Network Research and Content Development Associate