Covering an area roughly from Church Street to Main Street and Public Square to Wall Street, the free wireless signal marks not only the completion of a Downtown Development Agency goal, but also Cartersville keeping up with consumer expectations.
“Again, comments were made to me and, again, through the master plan process, were that people who went to other communities that had Wi-Fi just thought that was so wonderful,” said DDA Manager Tara Currier. “And I know myself when I’ve traveled to other areas and it’s offered, it’s just obviously really great not to use up your own data, that you can hop on to a free Wi-Fi network. So certainly we do hope that will be an attractor to people visiting our community.”
The wireless network, Currier believed, could lead visitors — as well as Bartow County residents — to discover a fresh attraction downtown, whether it be a store or restaurant.
“We have a lot of moms that drop off their children at ballet, or parents dropping their kids at some of the taekwondo down here, that are just kind of sitting in their cars flipping through a newspaper, and now they’ll have an opportunity to maybe hop on Wi-Fi and learn about maybe a business they’re sitting right in front of or a restaurant. So we hope it’ll be just a great way for people to enjoy more of what we have downtown,” she said.
Attached to the train depot in the center of downtown, the Wi-Fi equipment broadcasts a public signal. All the equipment cost $4,850, which included one year of maintenance, cables, installation, network configuration and bandwidth service. Funds for the network came out of the DDA’s Business Improvement District budget.
Having the Wi-Fi up and running is a success for Cartersville, said City Planner Richard Osborne.
“Given that it was a priority of the Downtown Development Association board and it was included in their work plan, as well as included in the downtown master plan, it’s good to have this priority activity completed and other priority goals of the DDA board can now move forward,” he said. “... It’s something that’s going to spread by word of mouth better than anything else. It’s been spread by the Facebook page, by emails to business owners, property owners downtown, but really it’s something a year from now, two years from now, it’s going to be something that’s well known and something that’s a great marketing advantage for downtown just as it is right now with Kennesaw, Peachtree City, Charleston and certain other Southern cities.”
At the moment, however, the Wi-Fi signal is meant primarily for those outside in the square or walking through downtown. Currier said that while the signal could be picked up inside businesses, it may not be at full strength. In the future, she continued, the 2016-2017 BID budget may include adding additional equipment in downtown that would move Wi-Fi down East Main Street toward Louie’s Cafe and down West Main Street toward Agan’s Bakery.
Even without any future expansion, downtown businesses are happy to have the Wi-Fi network up and running, Currier said.
“Oh the businesses are very excited about it. Again, we are just wanting to stress to people that it is not a secure network. So certainly we don’t wany anyone doing anything they wouldn’t want others to see, because you run that risk,” she said. “They’re very excited, and especially the restaurants have said that some of their patrons have noticed the availability and what a wonderful amenity that is to them.”