Board considers Wi-Fi access in downtown LaGrange

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 3, 2015

By Tyler H. Jones

LaGRANGE — The Development Authority of LaGrange is mulling the possibility of providing wireless Internet access around Lafayette Square.

The proposal is in its early phases and no action has been taken either way, according to Bobby Carmichael, the authority’s executive director.

“Really, right now we’re not sure that enough people would access it to justify the cost,” Carmichael said. “It’s something I think we need to continue to study. At some point down the road, we’ll probably have some type of access, but right now the cost is just too much.”

Carmichael said the wireless Internet idea stems from a study commissioned by the city that encouraged the local officials to consider several public improvements.

“One idea was to consider Wi-Fi in public spaces, so to evaluate that I asked Alan Slaughenhaup to come talk to the (development authority) board about what it would cost and who it would benefit,” he said. “We didn’t vote on anything, and we didn’t intend to vote on anything.”

To blanket most of downtown, it would initially cost the city about $100,000 in start-up fees, according to Alan Slaughenhaup, the city’s information technology director.

“All they (the authority board) wanted was to know a ballpark figure of what it would cost to blanket basically from the movie theater to the amphitheater, not including the amphitheater, but on Main, Bull, Church and Ridley streets,” Slaughenhaup said. “You could basically park at the parking structure (near the movie theater), hit the wireless and be on wireless all the way to the amphitheater and never miss a beat — that’s the cool thing.”

About 25 access points would be needed to provide the Wi-Fi access through the downtown area, he said, and the bandwidth would be about 40 to 100 megabits per second. A typical at-home DSL connection operates at about 3 to 6 megabits, he added.

Slaughenhaup said if the Wi-Fi system was created, users would log in by using their cell phone number or a social media account, like Facebook or Twitter.

“That way we keep people from logging on and downloading things they’re not supposed to,” he said.

Carmichael said the development authority would continue to study the idea before making any decisions.

“It’s pretty enspensive up front, and a lot of people use their telephone for Wi-Fi anyways,” Carmichael said. “Most businesses have their own Wi-Fi or internet service downtown, so the discussion had more to do with Wi-Fi in a public space downtown would be an attraction for people downtown who are coming from outside of the city.”

Tyler H. Jones is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.