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Free Wi-Fi coming to downtown Gainesville
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Karen Stabler uses her smartphone while sitting on a bench in downtown Gainesville on Wednesday, June 6. The city of Gainesville will be adding free Wi-Fi hotspots to the downtown square and Roosevelt Square. - photo by David Barnes

Downtown Gainesville will soon be going wireless.

The city has received a $30,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to install free public wireless internet downtown. The downtown Gainesville square and Roosevelt Square near the Hall County Courthouse are the priorities of the project, but after the city receives proposals and looks at funding, wireless may be added on the Midtown Greenway as well.

The city’s goal is to have wireless access available by the end of the summer.

Residents identified increased access to internet as a need for the city during focus groups conducted as part of Gainesville’s Downtown Strategic Plan, Jessica Tullar, Gainesville’s special projects manager, said. Gainesville received the grant late last year.

Lauren Batten, visiting the square on Wednesday, June 6, said she would definitely use the wireless internet there because her son often uses her tablet when they go out. The Gainesville woman and her mother, Lesa Rose, both said having internet in the area may also motivate people to go downtown and patronize local businesses.

“I like doing things outside, so I’d like to be out here and have Wi-Fi,” Batten said.

The signal will not be designed to reach into surrounding buildings. According to the city’s request for proposals, the Wi-Fi should be able to support at least 2,000 connections at a time.

City spokeswoman Nikki Perry said providing internet access helps advance the goals of the city’s Main Street Gainesville program.

“It’s to create a place where people feel connected to each other and part of the larger community,” Perry said. “Anything we can do to draw people downtown, like providing free Wi-Fi and outdoor spaces, that’s just a plus, and it brings us closer to that goal.”

Perry said it has not been decided yet if people would need to log in or provide their information to use the Wi-Fi.

The city is seeking proposals for the project, and after the proposal deadline on June 22, a vendor will be selected and work will begin.

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Diners sit at outdoor tables in front of Atlas Pizza in downtown Gainesville during lunch Wednesday, June 6. The city of Gainesville will be adding free Wi-Fi hotspots to the downtown square and Roosevelt Square. - photo by David Barnes
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