Supporters push for free Wi-Fi throughout downtown Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Supporters push for free Wi-Fi throughout downtown Steamboat

Jack Weinstein

Clark resident Kelley Moss stopped by Off the Beaten Path Bookstore in downtown Steamboat Springs. The members of Ignite Steamboat hope to ask downtown business and property owners to help create a free Wi-Fi zone through downtown.

— Imagine being able to get wireless Internet access anywhere in downtown Steamboat Springs. That's exactly what Jay O'Hare is trying to do.

O'Hare and fellow Ignite Steamboat organizer Noreen Moore presented the idea of free downtown Wi-Fi for the public at this month's Mainstreet Steamboat Springs board of directors meeting.

Reached Tuesday, O'Hare said he got the idea while going down Lincoln Avenue and seeing different secure wireless networks pop up on his smartphone. While some downtown businesses provide free wireless Internet connections, many don't.

O'Hare, a marketing technologist with 17 years experience in online development, said that could be changed relatively easily with existing wireless connections. He said business owners could buy an additional router, which could cost less than $100, to create free hotspots with a name like "Free Downtown Wi-Fi."

"This stuff already exists down here," he said. "It's just about finding a way that provides security for the merchant and value for the patron."

Mainstreet Manager Tracy Barnett said the board was excited about the idea and the possibilities. She called it a selling point for downtown and Steamboat.

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"It just makes Steamboat all the more user friendly in general," Barnett said. "The more people have these Wi-Fi enabled electronics they use for their business, it makes Steamboat more attractive for a place to come to."

O'Hare said a slightly more expensive router could allow downtown merchants to create a page that users would see before being able to go online. He said it could be used as a marketing tool to denote a business sponsor or special offers.

Only logistics stand in the way of a free downtown wireless network, O'Hare said. With buy-in from business owners, he said something could be up and running next month or in January.

O'Hare said he's working on costs and requirements for the network, but some businesses already have expressed interest in being involved.

Harwigs/L'Apogee general manager Mike Lang, who also serves on the Mainstreet board, said he's looking into the cost and what it would take to get another router for the downtown restaurant.

"It's not necessarily for Harwigs but for downtown business in general," he said. "It's the convenience factor and the convenience for our tourist friends, in a nutshell. In the technological age we're in, it seems this is the way of the future that everybody has access at all times."

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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