Downtown GJ set to get connected via public WiFi
Downtown Grand Junction is about to get public WiFi thanks to an agreement between the Downtown Development Authority and local tech company 32Waves.
The DDA board last week approved a pilot project that would allow 32Waves to build and maintain a public WiFi network along Main Street between Third and Seventh streets where the DDA could dictate times of availability and use it during downtown events.
32Waves proposed the project, which will run for five years.
“The conversation around Main Street WiFi has been around for a while and I think it’s something we always talked about wanting to do,” 32Waves co-owner Colter Lovette said. “When we first started, we thought it would be great to devote some resources on Main Street. A year and half later, we’re able to do it.”
The DDA will pay $7,500 as a portion of the upfront costs and allow 32Waves to access the fiber that was installed under one side of Main Street in 2012, infrastructure that has gone mostly unused up until now.
“It’s crazy that this hasn’t been done,” Lovette said.
The fiber runs between the shade huts on each of the four blocks of Main Street and 32Waves will install the WiFi capabilities at each of the shade huts that Lovette and co-owner Nick George say won’t be noticeable.
The hope is that the public WiFi service will help people have better internet access and help vendors during events like the summer farmers markets downtown.
“I think it’s a big step. If we can start connecting people, why not?” George said. “One of the main focuses of 32Waves is to really build this community up and help each other out.”
Also, Lovette said, there are numerous possibilities on how to operate the network and the DDA will have several options. For example, vendors could have a separate network to use for credit card transactions. The networks can also have scheduled time for use so that the network would only be available during the event and recur when the event returns.
The public network could also be offline at times decided by the DDA, something that is being explored, as the hope is to discourage loitering downtown after hours.
The network’s splash page could also be used as a way to connect business owners and the city with residents and visitors by providing information about what’s happening downtown.
Allison Blevins, executive director of the Downtown Grand Junction Business Improvement District, said she is glad to see something come to fruition with better downtown connection.
“We just think it enhances the shopping experience. I’m really excited for tourism. For special events it’s just necessary to have internet,” she said.
She also said the public WiFi will have the capability of asking the user about where they are coming from, and when they log on, which could allow the BID to get a better handle on tourism data.
“As far as my perspective as BID director, I’m really excited to gather some demographics, collect zip codes and see where people are coming in from,” she said.
Lovette said similar projects had been proposed over the past couple years, but none had come to fruition. He said 32Waves’ proposal provides more options than just a WiFi network that anyone can access or use for a fee. The company is also able to provide the service without bringing in a big service provider such as CenturyLink or Charter and is donating service costs.
“People wanted public space WiFi in some areas and the conversation came up that we have a broadband problem. I remember talking about this three or four years ago. It just never really worked,” Lovette said. “It’s not just about giving the public free access to the internet when shopping. It’s about taking that asset and making it more valuable and usable.”
The pilot network could be set up within a week, according to Lovette, and the DDA and 32Waves are just waiting on some permitting to install the broadband on Main Street.