Free WiFi will be available throughout the Deuces Live District, starting next week.
GoZone WiFi is extending a pilot project that began in the EDGE District to the Deuces Live, the area from 2nd Avenue South to 18th Avenue South along 22nd Street.
The initiative gives visitors to the districts easy and free access to WiFi while allowing businesses to learn more about their customers and promote return visits.
The pilot has been underway for several weeks in the EDGE District, which spans nine blocks from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street to 16th Street between 1st Avenues North and South.
A ceremonial wire cutting to officially launch the pilot took place at Green Bench Brewing Thursday, which also was World WiFi Day, a global initiative to bridge the digital divide. During the ceremony, Todd Myers, GoZone CEO, announced the expansion to Deuces Live.
“That is an area that really is in need of connectivity. That’s what today is all about, being World WiFi day, it’s about connecting the unconnected. We believe that the demographic in that area really calls for adding a lot more accessibility and connectivity options,” he said.
Cambium Networks, a Chicago-based developer of wireless broadband networking infrastructure, donated the equipment for the project, and St. Petersburg College is the initial sponsor for the Deuces Live WiFi. UPC Insurance and Goldman Wetzel Law Firm are sponsors for the EDGE District WiFi.
WiFi boxes that replace the individual businesses’ guest WiFi offerings are installed in locations throughout the districts. Guests can log in through their social media accounts or email, allowing a business to know if a guest is a return visitor or new to the district, and send them coupons and other offers so they will come back.
The system also gives the EDGE Business District Association a digital community billboard.
“In the spirit of World WiFi day we also wanted to help bridge the digital divide in our sister Main Street Districts, to connect the unconnected, and other areas of the city and other communities in Florida. We are working with GZ to do just that,” said Barbara Voglewede, executive director of the EDGE District.
While billed as a pilot, there’s no reason for the project not to continue, as long it gets support, including hosts for the equipment, users, a platform to supply the analytics and sponsors to pay for the upkeep, Myers said.
“We’re not talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. Traditionally when you are talking about WiFi networks of this magnitude you’re talking $50,000, $100,000 just to install it, and then tens of thousands of dollars to maintain it. The way we’ve assembled everything and the way we’ve done it is unique in that there’s very little capital upfront because everybody is sharing in the cost of not just the installation but the maintenance. What the sponsors are paying for is the ongoing maintenance and support and licensing for the platform,” he said.
GoZone is a five-year-old software analytics company that moved to St. Petersburg a couple of years ago, after Myers said he fell in love with the area.
Mayor Rick Kriseman praised GoZone for its investment in the community. “This is about data and it’s about access, but what I really loved that you talked about was community,” Kriseman said. “This is really about creating a larger and broader community in St. Petersburg and giving everyone access that might not have had access to the internet.”
The project brings together several key factors that the city is focused on, said Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We wanted to be this welcoming community where you could drive down Central Avenue and fall in love. We wanted to make sure we were targeting those kinds of companies that would bring great jobs to our community and that would bring technology to the community. We also are trying to build strong communities and neighborhoods with business districts,” Steinocher said. “This is what happens when you bring good business together with great technology and great leadership.”
The EDGE and Deuces Live offerings are a passion project for Myers, and also help GoZone as it grows its commercial offerings.
“What it does is allow us to take this model and use it as a demonstration to the revenue-producing customers – say this is how you can use our platform to monetize WiFi,” Myers said.