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Free WiFi For Residents and Visitors

November 02, 2009 By Doug in Miami: Local NewsMiami: Travel News  | 13 Comments

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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

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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:

WiFi Miami Beach is required to meet a 95 percent outdoor and 70 percent coverage inside a building up to the second floor. Additional tuning and relocation of nodes may still occur during this period to enhance coverage and connectivity. The operations and maintenance phase of the project will begin after the City accepts the network and will continue for six years.

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?

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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.

Related Categories: Internet Cafes Miami: Local News, Miami: Travel News,

Douglas Eames is a freelance writer, homespun philosopher and budget bon vivant who divides his time between Southern California and South Beach.

See more articles by Doug.

See more articles by Doug

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13 Comments on

"Free WiFi For Residents and Visitors"

pod says:

Wow, three years behind schedule. Don’t throw out that Bellsouth router just yet.

Good in a pinch, but I would never trust municipal connections for day-to-day use.

Posted on 11/02/2009 at 10:09 AM

Doug says:

That’s true, Pod, I remember they were talking about this since 2006.  I’m glad it’s finally off the ground.  Too bad it’s not going to be DSL quality.

Posted on 11/02/2009 at 1:14 PM

can't register says:

has anyone tried registering for the free wifi? the link just points to a megacom networks “page not found”... it’s been like that for a week.

Posted on 11/03/2009 at 8:26 AM

Doug says:

Hi, I know that some people have been able to connect.  Can you tell us where you’re trying to connect from exactly? Do you live in a building on a higher floor? Or do you think it’s something other than a signal strength issue?

Posted on 11/03/2009 at 1:40 PM

rk says:

You don’t always need VPN for security. Sites that use SSL (i.e. address begins with https:// rather than http://, this includes most reputable vendors and banks on the web these days) should be secure even without VPN. You should be using a reasonably up-to-date web browser, and of course using a computer that is not already infected with spyware. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Https for some information. Like anything else, https is not perfect, but real-world exploits are rare, and largely of the social-engineering and spoofing variety. I don’t worry about using it on a public wifi. (However, I am an experienced user, and can tell a fake message from a real one, so ymmv).

Posted on 11/04/2009 at 7:45 PM

Doug says:

Thanks, RK, that’s good to know! You’re a real fount of knowledge!

Posted on 11/05/2009 at 12:06 AM

can't register says:

Hi Doug thanks for the response.

3rd floor of a three story walkup.
i.e. version 6, spyware and malware free.

all pages that go to http://web.miamibeachfl.gov/wifi/, including the splash page, load fine.

The 3 or 4 links on the menu pointing to register your account, sign-in to the account, account settings, etc. go to a megacom networks “page not found” screen.
very frustrating actually.

Posted on 11/05/2009 at 8:05 AM

Doug says:

My only guess is that being on the third floor causes the signal to be inconsistent somehow.  Try calling the number above and see if they can give you any solutions!

Posted on 11/05/2009 at 3:34 PM

can't register says:

problem solved!
it was a browser setting issue that was easy to fix.

note to anyone reading this: always allow cookies for ip 192.168.102.21
btw i get great reception on the third floor.

kudos to the help line at 305-777-1917 and to you Doug!

Posted on 11/05/2009 at 8:57 PM

Doug says:

Great! It’s always a relief to get the Internet up and running! Remember that episode of South Park?
http://www.southparkstudios.com/guide/1206/

Posted on 11/05/2009 at 10:56 PM

Michele says:

While strolling on southpointe promenade, sat down and tried to connect to miami beach wifi on my ipad and couldn’t, could you please help me

Posted on 12/30/2011 at 9:02 PM

Doug says:

Hi Michele, I don’t know what to suggest other than try walking around different areas to see if you can connect more easily somewhere else.

Posted on 01/02/2012 at 2:38 PM

T says:

Hello. I am having every intention of purchasing my own internet while residing on south beach, but was just wondering, in the meantime, can I use the city’s internet access for the time being? What is the exact connectivity speeds? Would it be sufficient to stream on until I get my internet installed by the local cable company? Thanks for your help.

Posted on 06/19/2012 at 1:11 PM

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