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Johnson City working on plan to establish WiFi downtown

COREY SHOUN • Aug 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Johnson City leaders are in the process of developing yet another tool to aid downtown redevelopment.

The Johnson City Commission gave its blessing to City Manager Pete Peterson and city Business Management Analyst Todd Smith to continue work on a plan to establish a wireless communications network in downtown.

“There have been ongoing discussions about things we can do as a community to promote downtown and encourage redevelopment in that area,” Peterson said. “There’s money to be made in this venture. The city’s role really needs to be to jump-start the implementation process.”

cost about $75,000 for the initial infrastructure in the form of overlapping wireless “nodes” and about $30,000 per year in administrative costs.

Mayor Phil Roe said the city should gauge the interest of East Tennessee State University and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, in considering not only establishment of such a network but also expansion beyond downtown.

Smith suggested the city work with established service providers to get the program off the ground.

Smith said about 175 communities around the country have such a network, though they are used for varying purposes.

Roanoke, Va. uses its downtown network, which covers a six-block radius, largely for customer convenience and a draw to downtown. Corpus Christi, Texas, on the other hand, uses its network mostly for municipal services such as aiding in police patrol and water meter reading.

Smith said businesses that choose to participate, and thus help fund program start-up, would receive the benefit of a marketing return in the form of things such as Internet “splash pages.”

“It’s interesting to look at technology and how technology influences society,” Smith said. “Technology also changes the culture of city government.”

The commission did not take an actual vote to approve continued development of such a plan and did not approve a time frame for the project.

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