Buffalo, New York state’s second largest city and America’s 69th largest, is joining the parade of progress by building a public wi-fi network that will be available free to residents and visitors to its downtown corridor. Buffalo becomes the most recent of hundreds of American municipalities to offer this type of service.
City officials say that the outdoor public wi-fi network should be up and running and serving the Main Street Corridor by late June.
The free access network runs from North Street to the waterfront at Canalside and was designed to bring wifi service a block on either side of Main Street within a block on either side of Main Street. But city officials were pleased when early tests showed that signals from the 30 hotspots doubled their expectations and extended two blocks each side of Main Street, dramatically increasing the area and number of individuals and businesses served.
The city of Buffalo, the University of Buffalo and M&T Bank coordinated efforts to make the new muni network possible. It was built thanks to a $650,000 grant from M&T Bank, and is piggybacking on an existing network developed by the University.
“Free Wi-Fi is also seen by community leaders as a way to capitalize on the growing number of workers who are expected to be employed at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and residents who are moving to downtown housing locations, by providing a benefit which may attract even more jobs and residents,” WGRZ reported.
Of course, Buffalo’s public wi-fi network does have a few limitations and the primary one revolves around that pesky word “public.”
“This is not a secure network and the traffic will not be encrypted, so just like in any other environment where you use free public Wi-Fi you’re going to have to be careful about the information that you provide,” Julieta Ross, Chief Technology officer for M&T told WRGZ-TV. “So don’t pay your bills over this network.”
Ross also indicated that this is not one of those networks that will be hyped as “blazing fast”. It is expected to clock in at a leisurely 1 Megabit per user. “This is not a network we want to provide for you to watch movies,” Ross explained. “This is a network we want to provide to make Buffalo connected.”
Of course, Buffalo’s wifi network is small potatoes in comparison to Montreal, Canada’s new citywide network, but it’s a beginning, but city fathers are already discussing the possibility of building a state-of-the-art fiber optic network that would serve the entire city instead of just the downtown core. On the other hand, Bangalore, India recently became the first city on the subcontinent to offer its citizens a collection of free wifi hotspots.
So Buffalonians (We didn’t really know what residents of Buffalo are called, so we couldn’t help but pat ourselves on the back when we typed out the word “Buffalonians” and it wasn’t rejected by spellcheck) can be rightfully proud of their central corridor system. But that doesn’t mean they should settle for what they have. Besting Bangalore is not boast-worthy.
Begin writing and calling your city leaders. Respectfully tell them that this should be just the beginning and that The Nickel City deserves a system comparable to Montreal’s, not Bangalore’s.