Free WiFi For Residents and Visitors
Kawabunga! South Beach is now a prime surf destination, according to Miami Beach City manager Jorge Gonzales. The City has now launched an ambitious program to provide free Internet service for its guests and residents alike, which it will be offering through a 6-year, $5.2 million contract with IBM. In addition, other organizations including FDOT, FPL and Wireless Nets are assisting with the implementation of this new service.
“WiFi Miami Beach will make our city safer, our government more efficient, and provide free Internet access to our residents and visitors,” Gonzales announced at a “wire-cutting” ceremony Friday.
The previous week, the City got the ball rolling with a “soft launch” in certain neighborhoods, during which time over 600 people accessed the Web over 1500 times. There will still be a 90-day “reliability period” to ensure that the system is functioning as it should.
HOW TO CONNECT
You can use any device that is wireless-enabled and has a web browser. Simply use your computer’s WiFi signal locator to find the signal. There are two signals. Adults can use “City_of_Miami_Beach_WiFi,” while kids can connect using a content filtered version called “MBKIDS.” Once you’ve accessed the network, you will be asked to create a user name and password. After you complete the registration, you will be asked to agree to the terms and conditions.
WHAT “FREE” GETS YOU
According to Nannette Rodriguez, Public Relations Officer for the City of Miami Beach:
Although businesses are welcome to use it, officials point out that the system should not be considered business grade for enterprises and that the speed may not meet the needs of your business. So even if you’re a home user, don’t throw away your present broadband equipment just yet! It may exceed the speed and performance of the city’s free version, which is expected to deliver a minimum 1 mbps (megabytes per second) connection.
And, while the signal is limited to one and two story buildings, it is possible for taller structures to receive the signal: The City has offered a 25% discount on labor and materials for businesses (including hotels, apartment buildings and condos) who utilize IBM to provide access for units above the second floor.
Because the equipment is mounted on street lights throughout Miami Beach, coverage will be better outdoors than indoors. Also, certain areas of the city will not be able to receive the signal, including Fisher Island, the Mount Sinai Hospital area, and some beachfront locations.
The city also plans to provide free telephone support for automated and live support with connectivity issues. It can be reached at 305-722-1917.
Like most public connections, the signal is not encrypted, which means you should check with you financial institutions and other businesses with whom you exchange vulnerable information prior to accessing their sites using the new service.
Software such as VPN (Virtual Private Networking) is effective for protecting information transmitted through non-encrypted signals.
THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE?
Miami Beach joins a handful of cities nationwide that have taken the wireless plunge, including San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Oregon, Denver and New Orleans. Unlike Florida, however, Louisiana has a law against providing free broadband services, which officials in the Crescent City were able to only temporarily circumvent due to the state of emergency in place after Katrina. Similarly, St. Cloud, Florida, another pioneer in citywide WiFi, recently discontinued its service, due to cost concerns.
Even as many municipal governments in Miami-Dade are scaling back public services, including Miami Beach, it may appear a bit incongruous to be launching such an ambitious project at the present time. However, enhanced communication means greater safety, which may well save us money down the road.
For more information on the Miami Beach WiFi Internet Service, click here.
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