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Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014
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Free Wi-Fi coming for downtown Tampa parks

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In keeping with the push to make downtown Tampa a destination location for out-of-towners and city dwellers alike, all city parks along the Riverwalk project soon will be connected to free Wi-Fi access, courtesy of Bright House Networks.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said that the city was responding to what the people want, particularly those who live, work or play in the downtown area, and part of that includes the Wi-Fi accessibility in downtown parks.

“We’re attempting to energize downtown as a place where the best and the brightest want to be,” he said during the announcement under a blistering sun at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

Under the agreement between the city and Bright House, the city pays nothing for the Wi-Fi service.

Bright House, which will spend nearly a $1 million installing and maintaining access points, will have the service available by the end of the year, Buckhorn said.

The service area stretches from Contanchobee Park on the southern tip of the Riverwalk project, north along the east side of the Hillsborough River. It stretches through Curtis Hixon park, considered the jewel of the downtown park system, and continues north to Water Works Park in Tampa Heights.

Eventually, Buckhorn said, the service will extend to Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park on the west side of the river, just north of Tampa Preparatory School.

“We want to cater to the needs of the young professionals,” Buckhorn said. “Every weekend, preferably every night, something goes on here. It is an exciting time for our downtown community.”

The city has waived all the permit fees, the mayor said, and is expediting the permitting process.

There are some service restrictions. Accessibility is free for users up to two hours a day, or up to 1 gigabyte a month, said Craig Cowden, chief network officer and senior vice president of enterprise solutions for Bright House. Once a user reaches the end of the free service, there is an option to purchase additional service.

Cowden said Bright House has provided free Wi-Fi services in common areas of other cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In Florida, free Bright House service is offered in Orlando, St. Petersburg and now Tampa. The service is advertisement-free and the small, unobtrusive access devices, as many as 100, will be strategically placed along the Riverwalk to provide full coverage.

“We have put in about 30,000 access points across Central Florida,” Cowden said, providing free Internet access to Bright House customers and non-customers.

He said the Tampa project is part of a wider strategy, one in which Bright House will bankroll tens of millions of dollars. Other than for Bright House, he said, “This project is free for everybody.”

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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