Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa seeks to bring free Wi-Fi to downtown parks

TAMPA — City Hall is seeking a private-sector partner to bring free Wi-Fi to downtown Tampa's parks.

"Wi-Fi will be a draw," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Tuesday, and not just for visitors. "I want people of all ages and backgrounds to come downtown and be able to work and play at the same time."

As outlined in a request for proposals, a vendor would make free, outdoor wireless Internet access available along the Riverwalk, as well as in parks such as Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Lykes Gaslight Square Park and Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park.

So what's in it for the company?

For one thing, access to city property for its transmission equipment.

"They need our infrastructure," Buckhorn said. "That's the way this makes sense. We allow a provider to use our poles or to erect antennas on our buildings to provide, to whatever degree possible, a blanket around the city. In return for that access what we are hoping for is free Wi-Fi in certain areas, largely centered around downtown and the waterfront."

City officials believe that vendors could help support the free Wi-Fi by charging for it in other areas of the city or through online advertising. Proposals are due July 30.

If successful, adding free Wi-Fi to downtown parks would build on a city project this year that created seven free Wi-Fi hot spots at City Hall, the Police Department and in other city offices.

Tampa isn't alone in its quest for free outdoor Wi-Fi.

In March, Santa Clara, Calif., launched what officials there said was the nation's first program to provide free outdoor Wi-Fi for an entire community as part of an effort to upgrade electric meters.

There, the local electric utility is installing advanced meters that can be read using wireless technology. The same equipment carries a separate channel for public Wi-Fi.

"That's pretty cool," Buckhorn said of the Santa Clara initiative. "We haven't talked to (Tampa Electric), but I would imagine that the providers who would be at the cutting edge of this may incorporate those types of things into their response back to us."

Still, even Santa Clara officials say there are caveats. For one, while information from the electric meters is encrypted, the Wi-Fi service will be provided on a separate, unencrypted channel. Also, trees and buildings can block the signal. Higher-powered laptops work better than smartphones and tablets.

Elsewhere, the history of city-sponsored Wi-Fi has been rocky.

In 2008, Earthlink announced it would pull the plug on its $17 million citywide Wi-Fi network in Philadelphia.

The reason? The company couldn't come to terms on transferring the assets to the city of Philadelphia or a local nonprofit. A key question, never resolved, was who would pay the maintenance costs, which could have run millions of dollars a year.

Consequently, the city's request for proposals says City Hall does not want to get into the Wi-Fi business. Instead, it wants an experienced provider that can independently own and operate a Wi-Fi network for at least 10 years.

"What we've learned over the last five or six years is there were some cities who tried to do it themselves and failed miserably," Buckhorn said. "I'd much rather use the private sector's expertise and just hitchhike on their existing infrastructure and their ability to get it done."

Tampa seeks to bring free Wi-Fi to downtown parks 06/18/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 11:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies


    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.