August 1, 2012

Free Web Surfing Available at Governor's Park

Beth Bush  /  Daniel Island News

Surf's up at Governor's Park! Daniel Island residents and visitors can now enjoy free web surfing in the park thanks to a partnership with Home Telecom, the Charleston Digital Corridor and the City of Charleston. Several Daniel Island residents gathered to test out the new Wi-Fi service recently.

Daniel Island residents and visitors, grab your boards and get ready to catch some waves. By "boards," we mean your digital tablets, laptops and Smartphones, and the kind of "waves" generated by broadband signals. Free, high-speed web surfing has come to Governor's Park on Daniel Island, courtesy of Home Telecom, the City of Charleston and the Charleston Digital Corridor (CDC).

"We are excited to offer this free Wi-Fi service to those visiting Governor's Park and to the residents of Daniel Island," said Will Helmly, President of Home Telecom. "...I really hope to see a lot of use out of it, because staying's the lifestyle we all live right now."

According to Helmly, about 50 percent of wireless users today own a Smartphone device, and the tablet market continues to grow daily. Free Wi-Fi, can help users save on costly, capped wireless data plans, he said.

"Supporting the Charleston Free Wi-Fi network in Governor's Park is Home Telecom's way of showing its commitment to keeping our local communities connected affordably."
The availability of the new service in Governor's Park represents the second deployment of the Charleston Free Wi-Fi network, first launched by the CDC and Google at Marion Square Park in downtown Charleston several months ago.

"I am pleased to announce an expansion of the Charleston Free Wi-Fi initiative to Governor's Park, made possible through a partnership with Home Telecom," said Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. "Staying connected while catching a baseball game or enjoying an evening stroll in the park is very attractive."

The idea to include Daniel Island in the Charleston Free Wi-Fi network was sparked by Daniel Island Neighborhood Association President Mac McBride, who, after hearing about the Marion Square project, thought the service would be a perfect fit for Governor's Park.

"We live in a digital world where people have expectations that they can be connected with their Smartphones and other digital devices at all times," said McBride. "...Providing free Wi-Fi in the City's new Governor's Park is a natural extension of services in this amenity-rich community, providing one more reason to use our parks and spend time in our community."

McBride contacted Ernest Andrade of the Charleston Digital Corridor (CDC) to find out how to bring the service to Daniel Island. Home Telecom, a local independent communications company that serves over 20,000 residents throughout the Lowcountry, including Daniel Island, was next to join the effort. The company entered into a partnership agreement with the CDC to provide the funding and manpower to construct, install and maintain the network. After several months of planning, the service was successfully launched in the park last week.

"To my knowledge, the provision of public (free) Wi-Fi service in Governor's Park is the first time the islanders will be able to access the internet in a city park on the island," said Andrade. "In an environment of challenged budgets, public-private partnerships are rapidly becoming the norm. Two entities, Home Telecom (a Charleston Digital Corridor member company) and the City of Charleston have leveraged their respective assets to provide a great amenity for residents and visitors on Daniel Island."

The Governor's Park Wi-Fi service, which cost about $15,000 to create, is made possible by wireless network access points, or nodes, that enable users to utilize a wireless signal to connect to the internet. There are two nodes in the park, located near the concession stand, to ensure high-quality coverage at all times. The access points typically have a connection radius of up to 300 feet, said Helmly.

"We covered the park pretty well," he added. "We are very pleased with what we got."
"Home Telecom's generous offering is a great service to Daniel Island and to the many people who will enjoy the facilities at Governor's Park," said island resident Tom Richards, a DINA board member who tested out the service on his Smartphone last week.

When an attempt is made to access the Wi-Fi network from the park, the user's browser will come on the screen and then take him or her to a landing page with instructions and terms of service for utilizing Charleston Free Wi-Fi. The network is designed to serve a large number of users, but actual numbers and network speed will vary. Home Telecom will monitor the health of the network and provide additional enhancements as needed. There is a three hour time limit per day when using the service.

Pictured, with their laptops, digital tablets and Smartphones in hand, are (L to R) Linda McBride, Bill Thielfoldt, Mac McBride, Jane Baker (vice president of community services for the Daniel Island Property Owners Association), Tom Richards, Jim Morrill, Maureen Graham and Bob Graham.