with new WiFi Internet service
may attract new businesses, officials say
Helen E. McKinney
CARROLLTON, Ky. (April 2008) Twenty-one blocks
in the Renaissance District of downtown Carrollton have now gone wireless,
thanks in part to the efforts of the Carrollton Main Street Program.
This electronic system is intended to improve the inoperability of wireless
local area network products.
This is a free wireless Internet service to anyone within these 21 blocks,
said Sam Burgess, director of the Carrollton Main Street Program. The
area includes the Kentucky River to Seventh Street, and the Ohio River
to Sycamore Street.
The first phase was installed in April 2007 to a limited area
around the courthouse, said Burgess. The second phase was completed
in late October.
The WiFi system is like a mesh network, said Burgess. The main radio
repeater was installed atop the Old Stone Jail, where the Main Street
Program offices are located, to ensure a strong signal. The jail is
located in the courthouse square. A series of repeaters will broadcast
downtown at interconnected access points, or hotspots.
Personal computers can network to each other and connect to the Internet
through this system. Mobile computers can connect to the Internet from
any WiFi hotspot.
Liberty Communications, based in nearby Sparta, Ky., installed the system.
Burgess first saw this wireless Internet project two years ago at a
national Main Street Program meeting in New Orleans.
Were using the same equipment as the city of San Francisco
uses, Burgess said.
The WiFi system provides a competitive advantage to the city of Carrollton
by offering an additional incentive for new businesses to locate in
the downtown area, Burgess said. It allows businesses to save money
by not having to subscribe to an Internet service.
Its also helpful for businesses that conduct a lot of E-commerce.
It affords a way for businesses to expand their customer base by electronic
merchandising, he said.
Residents in the area have access as well, said Jeff Moore,
president of the Carrollton Main Street Program. A total of 17 repeater
units were set up and a few more will be added, Moore said. If one goes
down, the system will find its way around this to communicate, he said.
WiFi provides a good backup system for those businesses that must keep
an Internet service. Moore, who is publisher of the Carrollton News
Democrat weekly newspaper, has experienced this firsthand. When his
system went down at the newspaper office, he was able to retrieve emails
and advertising information that otherwise would have been lost.
Were still seeing how it works, said Moore. Expansion
depends upon the citys willingness to do so and the success of
the system. So far, Moore said the system has gotten good responses
from businesses and residents.
Jo Ellen Tumbrink, who owns the downtown Main Street business, Point
House, said, I use it all of the time. I can remain online all
day long now thanks to this system.
Its so much better than dial-up, said Tumbrink. She
touted its advantages as being fast and not tying up the phone line.
Tumbrink sells fine china and carries bridal registry items. Most of
her business is conducted through the Internet. She once had a couple
from Canada stop in to pick up their gift item they had ordered online
while in route to a wedding in Atlanta.
As a business owner, Tumbrink said she thinks that having an online
presence will bring customers to town. It will be a big asset to us.
The only possible drawback, according to Burgess, is that the system
will not service area banks. Such businesses use the Internet heavily
and have to keep an existing Internet service.
Money will be needed if more repeaters are to be installed to strengthen
the existing system. The Carrollton Main Street Program invested the
first $1,000 out of its budget, said Burgess.
The Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, Carrollton-Carroll County Tourism
and the Community Advisory Panel donated money for the initial start-up
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