The Wi-Fi partnership potential

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: December 17 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:55 am in
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By The Gazette Editorial Board

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We’re intrigued by a proposal from city officials in Cedar Rapids to create a public-private partnership toward building a Wi-Fi network in the downtown area and eventually beyond.

Earlier this month, the city’s chief information officer, Dominic Roberts, outlined the plan. Already, the city and Internet provider ImOn Communications LLC have partnered toward building a small Wi-Fi system between First Avenue East and Second Avenue SE and Second and Third streets SE downtown to test the concept.

And in the NewBo Market in New Bohemia, ImOn is providing free Wi-Fi as a community service (note: The Gazette parent company is an investor in ImOn).

In 2014, the city wants to expand the system to the broader downtown area including the new McGrath Amphitheatre on the west side and the New Bohemia district on the east. Bids from Internet providers are expected to be sought early next year. The plan is that customers will subscribe to provide Wi-Fi as part of the private services they provide, such as a hotel giving guests access to free Wi-Fi.

City officials, including City Council members Pat Shey and Monica Vernon, say the project has the potential to go farther, including the idea of bringing low-cost or subsidized Internet access to low-income neighborhoods so families there, especially those with children who need to access the Internet as part of their education needs, could better afford to connect.

All of this is aimed at bringing about a digitally better-connected city in an age when high-speed communication with useful information is an expectation and can help communities retain and attract young adults to live and work here — prospective entrepreneurs included.

We believe a Wi-Fi partnership could be a valuable venture for the public good. Other cities in Iowa offer versions. Still, many details, including the cost and any impact on the taxpayers, have yet to be finalized.

Let’s see what model the city decides to roll out next year.

Comments: editorial@thegazette.com or (319) 398-8262

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