Plan for free downtown Beaufort Wi-Fi revived

emoody@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 25, 2013 

Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

STAFF PHOTO

Gloria Gick held up her iPhone in its bright pink case Wednesday afternoon and smiled at her grandchildren as she spoke with them using the device's "Facetime" feature.

"Do you want to see Beaufort?" she said. "Here, let me show you Beaufort."

Gick spun in a slow circle, pointing out the swinging benches in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park that overlook the Beaufort River.

Then she stopped.

"Oh, I think we lost the connection," she said. "No, it's back."

Better data transmission could be on the way if a plan by Main Street Beaufort, USA, works out. The organization hopes to provide free Wi-Fi service downtown to residents and visitors by the end of the year, according to executive director LaNelle Fabian.

Main Street Beaufort has been working with Hargray on the proposal. Transmission equipment could be set up at the pavilion and the playgrounds in Waterfront Park.

"If Plan A works, then I just need city permission to put the equipment on their structures," she said.

The Wi-Fi would be accessible for computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices.

City manager Scott Dadson said Fabian has been working with staff on zoning, building-code and other issues related to Wi-Fi.

It is expected to cost about $1,000 a month to provide wireless service in the park and surrounding areas, Fabian said, but she has not received final numbers. Main Street is considering selling advertising on a landing page that wireless users would pass through to get online.

The idea has been discussed before. In 2008, for instance, Main Street worked with Internet Services of the Low Country on a similar plan that never came to fruition.

If the Wi-Fi program is successful, Main Street wants to extend its reach to Craven Street, Fabian said.

Than means Gloria and Jim Gick, who also visited Beaufort last year, might not have to worry about a dropped video chat during their next stop downtown.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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