Free Wi-Fi running in downtown Beaufort's Waterfront Park + video

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMay 16, 2014 

Smartphone, tablet and laptop computer users will now see a new wireless network symbol popping up on their devices when in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

The long-discussed free Wi-Fi network is up and running.

"I want to say it will be nice to cross this off the to-do list, but now we have to keep going to get this throughout the downtown," said LaNelle Fabian, executive director of Main Street Beaufort, USA, which arranged the service. "This is a nice first step."

The Wi-Fi network has been up for testing for about two weeks, and an official "wire cutting" ceremony was Friday. Fabian said so far, no problems have emerged.

The network is the result of a collaboration among Main Street Beaufort, Hargray Communications and the city of Beaufort.

"Hargray is very excited to have worked with Main Street, USA, to bring Wi-Fi to the park here in Beaufort," company spokesman Robert Gilbert said. "We think it is a great amenity that both residents and visitors will enjoy."

The service, which costs $9,000 for the first year, is being paid for in part by advertising on a landing page that users will pass through. Of 17 ad spaces, only one remains unsold. Ads start at $375 and go up to $1,500 for the banner at the top of the page.

The city is contributing $4,500 in accommodations-tax money. Often referred to as a "bed tax," the accommodations tax is a levy on overnight lodging to fund programs that promote tourism and attract visitors.

Transmission equipment has been set up at the park's pavilion and at restrooms near the playground.

If the first year is successful, Main Street Beaufort intends to expand Wi-Fi into the downtown business district, possibly to Craven Street two blocks north, Fabian, of Main Street Beaufort, said.

It's an added amenity for businesses and downtown visitors, Mayor Billy Keyserling said, and one he hopes people will take advantage of. He sees many people going to restaurants and coffee shops to use Wi-Fi, and now they can work in the park on benches and at tables, as well.

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