Free Wi-Fi returning to downtown?

Sanford officials are looking to restart free Wi-Fi service in downtown. City commissioners will discuss the issue at their meeting on Monday, Jan. 11.

Sanford began offering free Wi-Fi in downtown in 2007, however that system has not been operational for about two years said Chris McDeed, the city’s IT manager.

The old system was slow, service was spotty and it was not monitored, so if the service stopped working it would not be reset unless a citizen called city hall.

“For 8 years ago it wasn’t bad, but the systems are much better now,” said McDeed.

The system McDeed is recommending would be monitored, could send alerts if there were issues and would be scalable if more bandwidth was needed.

“If the system gets peaked out, we can adjust it to make sure things run smoothly,” said McDeed.

Wi-Fi coverage area would include 1st Street from about Myrtle Avenue to Sanford Avenue. It would also include Sanford Avenue from 1st Street to about 5th Street. McDeed said the system could be extended to other city venues like the Civic Center, the Sanford Museum and Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium if city commissioners decided in the future they wanted to broaden the service.

A more robust Wi-Fi system downtown would benefit residents, visitors and vendors using mobile point-of-sale devices at events like the farmers market, the St. Johns River Festival of the Arts, and Alive After 5.

If commissioners decide to move forward with Wi-Fi service, they would need to choose between outsourcing the service or completing the project in-house using city staff.

The cost for outsourcing would be $19,800 per year and the vendor would be responsible for installing, monitoring and maintaining the service.

It would cost the city $4,800 plus staff time annually to do the project in-house. The city would have to purchase $33,000 worth of equipment initially, as well as $6,000 every three years for equipment upgrades (or more frequently for equipment failures). McDeed said doing the project in-house could also result in additional cost in staff time as the system ages or sees increased use.

If commissioners move forward with offering Wi-Fi, McDeed said it would be 6 to 12 months before the system is up and running. It would require getting rights-of-way from private property owners various locations where transmitters and wiring would be needed.



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