The city planned to create a wireless bubble over the entire Central Business District. But that plan fell through, resulting in the contractor, EarthLink, paying out $5 million for failure to uphold its end of the bargain.
Now Houston Mayor Bill White says the city is offering free Wi-Fi hotspots at key downtown locations. The hotspots are an extension of the city’s Wi-Fi operated parking meters.
“There will be some places in town where there is no coverage, or the coverage isn’t as good. But in general, if you’re within the line of sight for some of these Wi-Fi base stations that we have in town you can get outdoor coverage easily.”
The free locations are Discovery Green, Jones Plaza, Hermann Square and Bayou Place, among others. And the mayor is encouraging business owners to install repeater modems to extend the signal to indoor locations.
Councilmember Melissa Noriega says free Wi-Fi is an important step for the city to take.
“Restaurants can pull the signal inside if they buy a modem, people are able to stop in different areas of downtown and pop their laptop up. As the world gets more flat and as the city is more and more of a hub for every kind of commerce, I’m just proud that we’ve been able to make as much progress as we have. This is clearly a case where the technology is coming along and we’re right in there.”
The city quietly turned the service on in late July as a test run. They’re calling it a pilot project, saying if enough people use the service it will become permanent.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.