TAMPA — Nearly two years in the making, free Wi-Fi is now available along Tampa's Riverwalk and in downtown waterfront parks.
Bright House Networks has launched the service, free of advertisements but limited for Wi-Fi users who aren't Bright House customers. Anyone using a personal computer, tablet, smartphone or other Wi-Fi-enabled device can connect to the Internet free for up to two hours per day, capped at 1 gigabyte per month. After reaching the daily or monthly limit, non-Bright House customers can buy more time online.
Bright House's high-speed data customers have unlimited access at no extra cost.
"I actually think it's pretty smart," said 18-year-old Joshua Edmond, who was skateboarding Tuesday afternoon around Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
Edmond, a senior at a charter school in Seminole Heights, said he and his friends love coming downtown, especially at night, and it will be nice to play games on their tablets as they hang out.
"That Wi-Fi will be pretty good to have," he said.
That's the idea, said Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who announced the service Tuesday. Providing Wi-Fi is like bringing public art and festivals to downtown parks, he said. It gives people a reason to visit or move to an urban area with an active riverfront.
For the young professionals whom Buckhorn talks about attracting to Tampa, Wi-Fi accessibility is becoming as much a part of a community's civic space as dog parks and bike paths.
Service is available along finished sections of the Riverwalk and in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Water Works Park and Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park.
Free Wi-Fi also will be added to the $8.8 million section of the Riverwalk now under construction under the Kennedy Boulevard bridge, which is expected to be done early next year.
As Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park is redeveloped, it will get free Wi-Fi, too, officials said.
The added service comes at no cost to the city, though Bright House spent an estimated $1 million to make it happen as part of a larger effort to improve service for its high-speed data customers. The company now has about 40,000 hot spots in Florida and more than 250,000 nationwide.
"We're bringing that service that our customers are asking for to make their lives a little easier," Bright House spokesman Joe Durkin said.
That said, it's unusual for Bright House to offer free limited Wi-Fi service to non-Bright House users over large areas. The company has done something similar at a park in Winter Park, but nothing on the scale of its project in downtown Tampa.
Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.