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Clearwater moves forward with innovative Wi-Fi program

Mark Parker

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Imagine Clearwater rendering. Frontier Communications will install a public Wi-Fi and communications platform downtown that will connect to the project. Image: Stantec.

Downtown Clearwater will soon receive expanded access to free public internet service through a program that will also serve as a communications platform and tie into the Imagine Clearwater project.

Speaking during Monday’s work session, Dan Mayer, director of information technology (IT), asked Mayor Frank Hibbard and city council members to authorize a purchase order to Frontier Communications to install and operate wireless internet services downtown. The amount is not to exceed $425,435.04, and funding is available through the IT department’s operating budget.

Frontier will install Wi-Fi along the Cleveland Street corridor – and, Mayer explained, the service would connect with the company’s internet and communication infrastructure at Clearwater’s long-awaited Imagine Park and Amphitheater. According to background documents, using one provider will create seamless coverage for activities throughout the downtown district.

“This will provide us the opportunity to give people access to information,” said Mayer. “And also includes a communication platform that allows us to see who is logged on to the network.”

Mayer added that the system would also allow city officials to share information specifically relating to the Imagine project with users.

The $83 million, 22-acre Imagine Clearwater development will transform Coachman Park and feature a new amphitheater. As of a July update, the project was 44% complete, despite some unforeseen infrastructure issues.

Installation of underground utilities was complete as of that update, and documents state that using a different internet and communications provider would cause the city to incur additional construction costs.

Frontier is the fourth internet provider to Clearwater’s wide-area network, according to background information. The city document explained that using two services in the same area would require users to disconnect and reconnect when traveling between Imagine Park and the surrounding downtown district.

“We thought it was a good decision to test it in this environment for a period of time prior to that build-out,” said Mayer. “And we know there are other technologies at work that may not be sustainable by itself for the long haul, but we thought it was a good add, and it certainly gives us some leverage in terms of communication and promotion in the area.”

Mayer explained that the city is not allowed to resell bandwidth, and the service is free for residents, visitors and businesses. He noted that the construction of the downtown corridor is complete, and Frontier will provide internet service via wireless access points on existing light poles in the area.

He said there might be a cheaper system available, but the city “would tear up a lot of sidewalks in the process.” Mayer added the wireless technology performed well during a test run.

City Manager Jon Jennings also believes the system presents a sponsorship opportunity, which he said is why officials are moving it forward ahead of Imagine’s opening next summer. Having one company sponsor the downtown wireless network could mitigate costs to the city, said Jennings, who said he hopes to expand the service to the East Gateway area.

He noted that new technologies are emerging, and the system could be an “interim step.”

“But it does give us an opportunity to provide, I think, a vital service for our residents and businesses downtown,” he said.

In addition to branding and sponsorships, Mayer explained the free service could create advertising opportunities. When someone accepts the usage terms, they authorize the city to send text messages within specified timeframes.

Mayer said the texts could encourage users to visit establishments and offer discounts. He added that city officials could also share vital information, like traffic closures. While “on the high end,” Mayer said he estimates potential revenue at $150,000 annually.

“So, there are things we think it brings from a value and communications standpoint,” he said. “We hope it does.”

City council members gave their consent for the purchase.

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Josh

    October 3, 2022at9:45 pm

    It doesn’t make any since to keep building things around Clearwater when y’all don’t have nothing for the youth kids to do sports programs are down invest and the youth 🤧

  2. Avatar

    Saf

    October 5, 2022at12:40 am

    There needs to be Diversity instead of Scientology controlling the Demographic surrounding area’s. Dunedin is showing how a Downtown area is suppose to be Managed and controlled for the the Greater Youth and Society moving forward.

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