Pine Avenue Becomes City’s First District To Offer Wireless Internet

By Amber Berglund
Gazette Staff Intern

A dream came true for web-junkies this month when Long Beach’s plan to transform Pine Avenue into a cyber “Hotzone” of free, wireless Internet access became a reality.

The city’s Economic Development Bureau teamed with four techno-companies to bring wireless Internet service to visitors and residents of Long Beach as a way to announce to the rest of the world that Long Beach is a business friendly city, EDB officials said.

“Wi-Fi” or “Wireless Fidelity” allows several computer users to access the Internet quickly using technology similar to cellular phones and towers. The only Wi-Fi connection available on Pine Avenue prior to the city’s introduction of the new system was the T-Mobile “HotSpot” service available at Starbucks at a rate of $2.99 per 15 minutes.

Lorenzo Gigliotti, the web designer responsible for the portal page for the downtown Wi-Fi, said that the process of hooking up to Long Beach’s free wireless Internet is very simple.

“All that’s required to take advantage of the free service is a Wi-Fi card, which is a standard 802.11B card available at any computer store, and a laptop computer,” Gigliotti said. “You don’t have to dial anything, you just turn on your computer, click your web browser, and a screen will pop-up asking for your e-mail address. Click enter and the next thing you will see is the portal page, and you are ready to go.”

The city’s free service will allow computer users one hour of free Internet access per day anywhere on Pine Avenue from First Street to Fourth Street. A wireless signal is transmitted from an eight-inch-by-eight-inch box attached to a traffic light at the intersection of Pine Avenue and Broadway. It allows computer users access to the Internet from anywhere on the sidewalk. City officials said that the service will allow users to surf and dine at any street-facing restaurant patio along Pine Avenue.

Gigliotti said the focus of the project now is really to spread the word that this service is available in Long Beach. He said computer users can “get around” the one-hour time limit simply by logging off and logging back on. He said the one-hour time limit was installed in an effort to keep computer users from abusing the system by “cyber-squatting” at Pine Avenue restaurants and cafes.

According to Bruce Mays, the EDB’s Wireless Project manager, Long Beach will be the largest city to offer the largest-range, free “Wi-Fi” of anywhere in the country.

“The whole project started about a year ago at the mayor’s technology symposium,” Mays said. “The Economic Development Bureau put together the project plan.Š We put together a core group of vendors to make it happen.

“It’s been running on a test basis since mid-November.”

The group responsible for the service includes four companies: Color Broadband, Intermec, Vernier and G-site. Color Broadband provides the connection to the Internet. Intermec provided the hardware that relays the signal to the computers. Vernier controls the access and monitors computer usage and G-site provided the web design.

Mays said that the city would only pay $4000 a year in operating costs, which is roughly 50% of the total cost.

Wi-Fi project officials said Wi-Fi access will be brought to the Long Beach Airport, Shoreline Village and the Long Beach Convention Center in the coming months.