Free wireless offered outside through public-private partnerships

Has this happened to you while driving? The radio in your vehicle is playing a song on a local radio station’s frequency and then suddenly the song starts fading in and out in the car speakers until it either goes to dead air or picks up another radio station.  You have traveled beyond the bandwidth of that frequency and have now found yourself singing the rest of the song a cappella style. Well, the same thing applies to the internet and Wireless Fidelity or Wi-Fi.

Your device can pick up a Wi-Fi signal that connects it to the internet, thru the air just like a high-frequency radio signal. Wi-Fi, like the frequency of a radio station, is regulated. Electronic components that make up a wireless network are based on one of the 802.11 standards that were set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Wi-Fi Alliance. The Wi-Fi Alliance trademarked the name Wi-Fi and promoted the technology. The technology is also referred to as WLAN, short for wireless local area network. The type of 802.11 protocol used indoors will deliver transmission ranges anywhere from 115 to 230 feet.

It is up to you to foot the bill for wireless technology in your home, but most indoor establishments pay to offer some type of free Wi-Fi for your convenience. But what happens when you go outside? Free Wi-Fi kiosks by CIVIQ Smartscapes have started popping up in cities like New York,  Miami, Portland, Ore., Chicago and San Antonio. The kiosk includes a dual 55-inch outdoor display, dual touch screen, Wi-Fi and USB quick charge capabilities. These kiosks are scattered throughout the city and provide a Wi-Fi range from 150 to 250 feet. The kiosks can also be customized to provide information about upcoming events, geographic points of interest other local information.

New York plans to have 7,500 kiosks by 2024. The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications oversees upkeep of the LinkNYC kiosks while CityBridge, a group of tech companies, assumes responsibility for installation of the kiosks in exchange for the advertising revenue generated by the project. The advertising shown on the kiosks means that the city offers the service with possibly no cost to the taxpayers. Since the law prohibits this type of arrangement in Texas, Bexar County is paying $280,122 for the six kiosks to be installed throughout San Antonio this summer.

For those traveling underground, the Wi-Fi signal can be very faint, but the city of New York found a way to deliver free wireless throughout their underground subway stations. Service underground went live at a few stations five years ago, but January officially marked the goal date of delivering the service at all stations. In addition to wireless, some stations now offer cellular service. These services presently are not offered on trains traveling between stations, but the city has promised that the service would be available when they roll out their next generation subway trains in 2020.

The company that provides the free service for the city agreed to spend $7 million on the Wi-Fi operation over five years and will advertise along the route to promote it. To access the Wi-Fi connection and enter the password, users have to start at a landing page which highlights local events, poses a poll question, provides the weather and allows the city to interact with the users.

If you feel like getting away from the city and might want to go climb a mountain, Mount Everest, would be your best option for Wi-Fi. Previously, a couple of the base camp services offered Wi-Fi at $5 an hour, but free wireless will be made available soon at the Lukla-Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Base Camp along Everest. The Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) plans on using fibre-optic cables that can resist the extreme cold atop Everest.

The NTA will also introduce a system of wireless broadband transmitters to send microwave signals up and down the mountain in case extreme weather interferes with the fibre-optic cables. At 17,600 feet above sea level, the base camp will be the highest location on Earth with free Wi-Fi.

For those who would rather keep their feet firmly planted at the bottom of a mountain can head to one of several beaches and camping areas to get free wireless outside. Most of these outdoor venues have been offering the luxury of Wi-Fi for a few years. And believe it or not, you can even get free wireless service at a cemetery. At Oak Grove Cemetery in Paducah, Ky., visitors who want to perform genealogical research don’t have to wait until they get home to look up names on head stones. In 2016, Moscow, Russia equipped 133 cemeteries with wireless technology. Some of these cemeteries are the final resting place of well-known authors and leaders and the Wi-Fi allows visitors to learn more about those laid to rest.

Photo: by Karen Bryan