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.

Photo by John F. Russell

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.

Supporters push for free Wi-Fi throughout downtown Steamboat

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— 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.

“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

Comments

Chad James 2 years, 10 months ago

What a great FREE MARKET solution to this challenge! Great job, Jay & Noreen! If 50 businesses latch on to his concept, the bill will be around $5K....NONE of which will be paid for with tax dollars, but with private funds from actual stakeholders....what a concept.

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rhys jones 2 years, 10 months ago

Sounds great in principal; then there's the reality. Any individual network will be lucky to travel 100' beyond the stone or brick walls of the business hosting it. And these networks are all supposed to have the same name? How will the computers know which is which, especially where they are getting more than one signal?

I'm not trying to take anything away from these Ignite folks, even went to their last meeting. And while I can certainly claim no corner on technical knowledge, I do spend every day dealing with the technical intricacies of the Internet including wireless, and I see here a great idea, fraught with techno hurdles.

But good luck with it!! When you decide to throw some money at the problem, give me a call.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 10 months ago

Get routers that support external antenna so then you get 300 feet. And no one said it had to operate seamlessly allowing people with all devices to switch routers as they walk along the street. It is more so people can stop anywhere downtown and get a connection.

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rhys jones 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm not saying it can't be done, just that it'll be one heck of an experiment. I will confess that my extreme knowledge on the subject is limited, and surely others know more than I... yet I find myself imagining duplicate frequencies, feedback, overlap, resonance, phase irregularities, even echo...

It's like, (((1's + 0's) * air) * walls) * N = ?

where N == the number of servers. Sounds like fun!!

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James Earley, MCSE 2 years, 10 months ago

The tech part is easy. All the access points get the same name and configured in a cluster. They pass off from each other and your wireless device connects once within the cluster and it's seamless connectivity no matter wher you are receiving signal from. I'll recommend a brand and model for busnesses to purchase and set the whole thing up for free.

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Rick Akin 2 years, 10 months ago

Excellent work, Jay. Nothing is as creative as private enterprise.

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James Earley, MCSE 2 years, 10 months ago

Jay - Do it right the first time - http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps10597/index.html costs a little more than your $100 home unit, but this is what you want to use to have a first rate seamless wireless network that is easy to deploy, administer, and expand.

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rhys jones 2 years, 10 months ago

boatbug -- Sounds like you've got it going on. This old curmudgeon awaits the day, he can move back into his truck. Tweak on!!

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rhys jones 2 years, 10 months ago

oh wait -- I clicked your link -- and I'm all about free. What costs $100?

If your wireless comes up on my Linux Radar -- (free) -- I'll click it.

It's still early, friends. Ain't signing no contracts, buying nothing.

Remember the Zip drive?

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rhys jones 2 years, 10 months ago

Further circumspection leads me to reveal, I could barely discern between a harmonic frequency and an internet submask, so I will defer to the minds that know. Rock on!!

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 10 months ago

Well, with those routers that say they have a range of hundreds of meters then the issue would less be about convincing businesses to be hotspots and more about having a downtown internet/wifi group as part of MainStreet. Which is probably the way to go because of the effectiveness of having and promoting downtown wireless would be diminished if there is inconsistent quality of service.

And we don't want businesses having internet issues which they are not sure if are caused by being a hotspot. And there could be an issue of other businesses or downtown residents mooching on another business's connections.

Also, with the security issues of open connections then they should probably also offer encrypted connections with a well advertised password.

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