Where is the WiFi?

At a recent council meeting the Chapel Hill IT Director presented information about a WiFi pilot project. One council member asked How will citizens know where it is? How will we know when its up? The Mayor asked the IT Director to work with the Town Information Officer. A good first step. I subscribe to the Chapel Hill eNews. (A email list.) I wonder what percentage of Chapel Hillians do?

For this pilot project to work not only do the WiFi hot spots need to be where people will be but the Town needs to tell people where they are. A press release will help but it won’t be enough to encourage full participation.

Here are a few ideas for getting the word out. I hope that if the Town is really interested in the success of this pilot that they’ll consider these options. What ideas do you have? Please leave them in the comments.

First, mark the locations clearly where open public WiFi is present. The Town of Carrboro uses a internationally known symbol for an open wifi node.
There is a symbol like this on the door of the Century Center as you head towards the Cybrary. Still this bit of iconography is a bit geeky so some may be confused by it. I think english AND spanish signs that say; Public Wireless Internet Access Available Here, would be good.

Second, plot the WiFi hot spots on a map. Google maps are incredibly powerful tools that are free to use. Last year I created a map for local WiFi called Chapel Hill Wireless. It has pins on a map that you can click on and learn more about the spot. I’ve included WiFi from both Towns and from local businesses. (Sadly UNC’s wifi is NOT on this map. That network is closed to most citizens.) Since this map’s creation we’ve also gotten maps for other towns such as Durham Wireless and Asheville Wireless.

Third, hold events at the WiFi locations. Work with local tech groups like BlogTogether and University user groups to have lawn chair parties within range of the WiFi. I suggest people need to bring their own chairs because it looks like the majority of the pilot project will be conducted in parking lots. Sorta hard to sip coffee and talk to friends and family on asphalt. But I plan on doing just that.

I am sure there are even more creative ways to let people know about these new public resources. As I said in my comments before the council success of public WiFi relies on two way communication with people more than technology. WiFi for people before parking meters!

Cross posted from Orange Politics.

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