Downtown Gets “Free WiFi That Is No Longer a Luxury”

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Waterville, ME is one of many cities and towns in the state using recently installed wifi access as a development tool to help revitalize their downtown area. The free WiFi, established by Axiom and FirstLight, which launched in August 2018, has already served more than 124,000 users, reported Mainebiz.  The Waterville usage data shows “public WiFi is increasingly becoming a necessity for patrons of downtown districts,” said Garvan Donegan, director of planning and economic development for the Central Maine Growth Council, which manages the WiFi service.

Things like free WiFi are no longer luxuries, said Mike Faloon, of Our Katahdin, a nonprofit community development group. “Residents and tourists — especially tourists — expect these amenities and it also gives them a reason to maybe stop in the respective downtowns when going to or coming back from the lakes and mountain,” Faloon added.  

Cities like Agusta, which has free WiFi throughout its downtown and across the river to City Center, and Camden, which launched the first free municipal wifi in the state in February 2016, has service provided by Redzone. Additionally, Millinocket launched free downtown wifi in July 2017 and now has five hot spots, reported Mainebiz.

Millinocket’s library hotspots, also installed by Axiom, are particularly innovative, it’s one of five libraries in the country to receive a $15,000 grant to pilot new technology that uses TV whitespace spectrum to expand broadband access beyond its walls, Library Director Matt DeLaney said.

“We regularly see over 1,000 unique connections per month on our network,” DeLaney added.

Like Millinocket, involvement from the business community made Waterville’s free wifi happen. The service was established through an initial investment by Colby College and supported by Kennebec Savings Bank, MaineGeneral Health, Northern Light Inland Hospital and Thomas College’s Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation.

April 8, 2019           

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