Fairborn hopes free downtown Wi-Fi means ‘competitive edge’

Fairborn city government is making a “significant investment” in fiber optic infrastructure to attract new entrepreneurs downtown and offer the public free Wi-Fi in a new partnership with Cincinnati Bell, said Assistant City Manager Pete Bales.

City officials said the addition of wireless internet downtown will help the business district’s revitalization and give Fairborn “a strategic competitive edge over other communities who are trying to draw visitors” and tourism to their downtown, Bales said in a memo to city council.

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Cincinnati Bell will design, construct and maintain the system, which “will provide the most robust technology available and feature a fiber optic backbone along Main Street,” Bales said. The public Wi-Fi will run along Main Street from Dayton Drive to Broad Street with the ability to expand.

Cincinnati Bell will immediately begin designing the fiber build. Instillation is slated to begin in the spring, with public Wi-Fi expected to launch by August.

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The fiber instillation will cost the city $388,000, paid to Cincinnati Bell in two equal installments this year and next. The city will also pay a reoccurring monthly fee of $1,410 for 200 megabits per second high-speed internet, data analytics, access points and system maintenance. The costs and fees have been approved in the city’s 2018 budget.

At no cost, Cincinnati Bell will provide 1 gigabits per second internet, Wi-Fi, telephone and television service for the 300 block of Main Street, which city officials have dubbed the Spark Block. In exchange, the city will give Cincinnati Bell naming rights for the Spark Kitchen conference room and sponsorship recognition, including plaques on all televisions in the Spark Kitchen and Spark Block Wi-Fi log-in signage.

Cincinnati Bell has sought for years to transform its network from copper-based telecommunications to a state-of-the-art fiber network, according to its 2016 annual report. Fiber cables transmit pulses of light and are faster than copper wiring, which transmit electrical currents.

Residents said they’re looking forward to the new Wi-Fi and hope it is an attractive feature for prospective businesses.

“I would love to see more businesses down here,” said resident Beth Player. “A lot of people, that’s how they operate and if we expect to keep up with the times, we have got to do that.”

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In Montgomery County, a fiber optic network linking seven south Dayton suburbs is expected to be operating by the end of the year. Kettering City Manager Mark Schwieterman has said future uses for the system could be beneficial for businesses which decide to integrate their systems with the technology. It could also provide businesses with incentive to relocate.

News Center 7 reporter Gabrielle Enright contributed reporting.

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