Free Wi-Fi coming to downtown Pascagoula

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Pascagoula City Council members have agreed to purchase equipment needed to create a Wi-Fi zone in the city's downtown. Leaders say that means free internet access in downtown and the surrounding area.

Cynthia Everett is a Pascagoula realtor. She said there are days she can't put her job on hold while she gets a bite to eat, and that's when Wi-Fi access comes in handy.

"Technology is the way of life today and anything that we can do technically to update our community, to me, is a real plus," said Everett.

Employees at Scranton's say the downtown restaurant began providing Wi-Fi service years ago and customers love it.

"We have a lot of businessmen that come in, use their laptops or even or their phones. When they can't get good service through their companies, they use our Wi-Fi, "said restaurant manager Amy Chenoweth. "The other restaurants in the downtown that don't have Wi-Fi, it could them get more of the business meetings that we have here and possibly share the wealth."

Pascagoula will create a free wireless network over a 25 block area using federal grant money.

"The city purchased about a dozen wireless router components," said Pascagoula Development Director Harry Schmidt. "Those get installed on power poles around downtown, and basically they relay a signal around and create a wireless network. We're hoping it will be installed later this summer, or maybe fall it will be up and running."

City officials said this is a long term investment.

"We see it as an educational and job training way that people can get on the internet," Schmidt said. "They can be outside. They can be at coffee shops, stores, anywhere in a public space and they can get online and educate themselves. They can also do workforce training, job hunting, those kinds of things."

Some people said Wi-Fi will get more people to connect with downtown.

"We hope that it will drive more traffic downtown and that local merchants will be able to tap into the wireless system to use for their business," Schmidt said. "Then it drives down the cost of being in business in town."

Pascagoula leaders say businesses that already have Wi-Fi can also benefit. Instead of continuing to pay subscription fees, owners can buy a low-cost device that allows customers to access the city's free Wi-Fi service inside the buildings.

Again, officials hope to have the system up by late this summer or early fall. Officials said users would only be able to log on for limited amounts of time, so as not to cut into the business of companies that provide wireless services.

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