Beginning today, The District will be providing free public WiFi as part of a six-month pilot project. This project is funded through the CID sales tax and is part of a larger effort to enhance the experience of people visiting The District.
Free WiFi will be available in the public areas of Broadway, Ninth Street, and Flat Branch Park. WiFi will also soon be available in the newly revamped Courthouse Plaza so people using the new picnic tables or watching a performance on the new stage will have access to the Internet.
Visitors to The District will be able to use Google maps to find their way around, check out the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website, live tweet concerts, post photos to Instagram, and check out Yelp for recommendations on where to eat in The District. And if it’s a nice day, they can bring their laptop or tablet down to the park along with their lunch so they’re never out of touch.
According to www.gigaom.com, WiFi use has increased tremendously as the popularity of smart phones has increased. Nearly 98% of Wi-Fi consumers log onto WiFi networks once daily and 84% want citywide WiFi. They also found that 91% of users expect WiFi when traveling and 90% of users make hotel and travel decisions based on WiFi availability. Access to free WiFi is the top question visitors to Columbia have, according to both local hoteliers and the Parks and Recreation Department.
The Annenberg School for Communications found that free WiFi increases the use of public space. They found that 25% of the people in a typical public space would not have visited before WiFi was available and 70% said they came more often because of wireless access. The average laptop user makes two, one-hour visits to a public space per week if WiFi is an option
Full Stream Wireless was selected as the provider for this project and they’ve been placing small transmitters on the roofs of selected buildings within the target area, delayed only slightly by unseasonable weather. Thanks to Boone County, Boone County National Bank, the City of Columbia, Commerce Bank, the Missouri Theatre (MU), and Van Matre, Harrison, Hollis, Taylor and Bacon for use of their facilities.
Free WiFi will be provided for a six-month period to determine the extent of use and whether or not investment in a permanent program is warranted. After the test period, the CID Board will evaluate its popularity and assess options.
The Downtown Community Improvement District (CID) is an independent organization with the
goal of enhancing the vitality of The District, Columbia’s central city. With the help of business and property owners, CID Board members are working to increase the vibrancy and attractiveness of The District, making it a great place to live, work and play. Find us at www.discoverthedistrict.com.