City of Ardmore is working on getting free WiFi in public places, starting with four city parks.
IT Director Robert Newell said they recently finished the design phase of the project and are now in the procurement phase, which involves getting the equipment together and building it. Next will be the installation phase.
“My guess is the very first park you’ll see it in is Central,” Newell said. “It’s small and it’s right down the corridor.”
The other three parks include Regional, Cardinal and Whittington. Since Regional Park is so large, he said there won’t be WiFi access in the entire park, but they hope to have it at the ball field, the dog park and playground areas.
“So if you’re watching a game, hanging out, watching your kids play on the playground, you should be able to get WiFi,” Newell said.
Parks and Recreation Director Teresa Ervin said it will be yet another service they can offer to residents who visit the parks.
“It’s enjoyable to come to the park and sit and just to have that capability,” Ervin said, adding some people can work while enjoying nature.
The infrastructure for the project was acquired by the city when there was a plan to have WiFi for free citywide, but plans ended up falling through.
“Nine years ago the idea was…make 52 square miles of free wireless as an incentive to bring people in. At the time, it was a great plan. The city partnered with a company that had a great idea, it just couldn’t be supported in the long run,” Newell said.
With the equipment already purchased, but the city’s three-person IT department unable to handle it, the city redirected their efforts to public spaces, like the city parks.
“We didn’t want to waste the money,” Newell said. “It was purchased, so let’s use the equipment.”
The goal is to have free WiFi at all four parks by the end of the year, he said. From there, they will start looking at other parks and spaces in city limits.
There will be some limitations, for example, it will only be available until dusk, which is when the parks close. Also, because it will be available to the public, there will be some protections.
“It’s like at the library, we try to limit pornography and other things to protect children in some way,” he said. “We are subject to some federal laws, so we have to do some protection.”
The cost of having WiFi available will be very minimal for the city, since the infrastructure is already there. Newell said by attaching the equipment to a power pole the city is already using, there will not be any additional electrical charges.
“This stuff’s already been paid for, it’s not going to cost anything else,” he said. “The idea is just to provided better quality of life and we figured parks is a place where everybody enjoys.”