Berlin’s Downtown Offers Free WiFi Service

BERLIN — There’s something in the air in Berlin this summer. It’s not love; it’s free wireless Internet.

“After receiving a number of requests from visitors, the Berlin Council authorized the installation of Wi-Fi and Tim Lawrence, Berlin’s Electric Utility Director, facilitated the addition of the necessary equipment to provide this service,” said Mayor Gee Williams. “We think that our town’s visitors and guests will enjoy and appreciate this added convenience.”

The desire to make Wi-Fi available in downtown Berlin has been a council goal for years. The cost was always too high to justify the project, however. But this spring Virginia-based firm NGX Grid offered to install Wi-Fi downtown for under $3,000, a fraction of what previous estimates from other providers had offered, with usual prices in the $50,000 ballpark.

Coverage will extend throughout the majority of Berlin’s downtown including portions of Main, Washington, West and Jefferson streets. While it was previously believed that Wi-Fi relays might need to be posted on buildings in town, potentially some that are privately owned, the town was able to instead install the relays on town-owned utility poles.

The goal of offering free wireless in Berlin is to enhance all of the other experiences the town offers, according to Williams.

“The Mayor and Council believe this is yet another example of Berlin’s commitment to being a town with 19th Century charm and 21st Century living,” he said.

The idea, added Williams, is to “hopefully give people another reason to get together” downtown, where they will be able to shop, eat or walk the historic district. The wireless project joins the Berlin Ambassador program, which places town employee volunteers in an information both during the week, as efforts being made by Berlin to attract visitors and locals alike downtown.

“It’s another service we can provide to a substantially growing number of guests,” said Williams.

With Wi-Fi up and running, the goal now, he explained, is to get the word out.

“You can’t see it,” said Williams. “The only way people will know to use it is by reading about it or hearing about it.”

Signs announcing the free wireless are popping up around Berlin this week for just that reason. Once a visitor has logged on to “Berlin Public Wi-Fi,” they will need to agree with a short disclaimer and terms of use screen. After that, they will be online so long as they are downtown.