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City explores bringing Wi-Fi to Austin parks

Thursday, June 30, 2016 by Cate Malek

The vision is for any Austinite hanging out in a city park to be able to get online for free. But, in reality, bringing wireless internet access to Austin’s parks may be too costly and unpredictable. The Parks and Recreation Department has begun to explore the project with the goal of meeting a few pressing needs. First on the list is providing Wi-Fi during major events, such as music festivals. This would not only create a better experience for concertgoers but also allow vendors to make sales and improve public safety. Another goal is to upgrade the wireless internet offered at more remote city facilities, which are now relying on private internet companies that often provide slow and unreliable service, according to the parks department. But getting Austin’s parks connected involves a number of challenges. Particularly concerning is the fact that few other cities have successfully implemented free public internet. The Parks and Recreation Board raised a number of questions about the project at its meeting on June 28. Board members questioned whether there was a cheaper way to upgrade the internet at remote park facilities. They also questioned the time frame of the project, saying that in five years, when the project is set to be finished, wireless technology may look completely different. “By the time we execute this plan, I have deep concerns it will be relevant,” said Board Member Pat Wimberly.

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