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Free wireless Internet service now available in Hagerstown's City Center

July 12, 2013|BY HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com

Free wireless Internet service is now available at two access points in Hagerstown’s City Center, which is slated to be fully accessible by fall, a city official said this week.

The technological upgrade is a move two past administrations of the Hagerstown City Council had tried to achieve, in an effort to enhance the convenience and comfort of visiting downtown. 

“This truly is, I think, one of the biggest things we can do for economic development in downtown,” Mayor David S. Gysberts said Tuesday during a meeting at City Hall. “It’s good for business, it’s good for students, it’s good for residents — it’s just overall good business.”

The service is being provided under a partnership between the city, University System of Maryland at Hagerstown and the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, known as CHIEF, according to Scott Nicewarner, the city director of technology and support services.

The initiative was developed by USMH Director Mark Halsey as part of a campus technology upgrade.

“Part of our institutional mission is to serve as a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Hagerstown. Partnering with the city on this initiative is an opportunity to further that goal,” Erin Harman, USMH director of advancement and outreach, said in an email Thursday.

The pilot boundaries for testing of the units and their signals include North Potomac Street to Franklin Street, South Potomac Street to Antietam Street, West Washington Street to Summit Avenue and East Washington Street to Locust Street, Nicewarner said in an email Wednesday.

Plans include extending the service by October west to Walnut Street, east to Mulberry Street, north to Church Street and south to Baltimore Street, said Nicewarner, who spoke about the plan before the Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday. 

Two City Center access points, at the University District Parking Deck on North Potomac Street and in Public Square, were activated as of Tuesday, Nicewarner said.

“They are available for use right now, and we are monitoring the traffic on them as part of our testing,” he said. “Anyone with a wireless device — laptop, tablet, smartphone — can access the network by selecting COHGUEST from the list of available networks.”

After submitting the Acceptable Use Policy, a banner page where users agree to the terms and conditions of the free service, a connection will be established. If users are walking, their service automatically will be transferred between access points without loss of their network connection, Nicewarner said.

By early August, Nicewarner expects the next installations to be on the first block of East Washington Street around the city’s central lot entrance, and on West Washington Street near the Washington County Courthouse.

The cost of the project on the USMH campus and throughout City Center is estimated at $50,000, according to figures provided by USMH.

Of that amount, the plan calls for USMH to provide $20,000, the city to provide $10,000 and CHIEF to chip in $20,000.

The city will have access to the USMH management system.

Halsey’s only stipulation regarding the project was that the banner page be an “advertisement” for the university system at which the user will accept terms and conditions of use, Nicewarner said.  

“Our secondary goal over the next year will be to have City Park as a wireless hotspot for park visitors to access the Internet, then expand into our other parks throughout the city,” Nicewarner said.

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