Wireless Technology Turns Downtown Gulfport Into "Hot Spot"

Downtown Gulfport has become a testing ground for the newest wave of wireless technology to hit South Mississippi. A few months ago a company called Whisper Network launched the area's first and only wireless Internet service that does not operate by satellite. Anyone who signs on anywhere in downtown Gulfport can access the service free of charge.

College student Kimberly Cameron says keeping up with her Internet assignments no longer means staying close to phone or cable lines. Cameron can stay on the go now that she's gone wireless.

"I use it for class," said Cameron. "I have courses on line that I take. Also, I use it just to check mail and surf the web."

Much of downtown Gulfport is now what's called a wireless hot zone. Some business owners believe offering this convenience will lure in more customers.

Stacy McLamb runs a coffee shop.

"If we can get people who are down here doing business staying at the Grand Casino or whatever to come over and handle their business in our coffee shop while they have a good cup of coffee, I think that could benefit all of downtown Gulfport."

Service providers say the technology is not new but until recently was unaffordable to most people. Now no one lives beyond the reach of fast Internet service.

"The people who live in the outlying areas shouldn't be punished because they live somewhere where cable or D.S.L. won't come," said company vice president Finley Hewes.

Just as the cell phone before it, Hewes says this service will change the face of the wireless industry.

"You can check and communicate with your business and with your office from virtually anywhere in South Mississippi. That's in the planning stages and that's what we're striving towards."

Since the company's launch, Whisper Network officials say they've had more business than they can keep up with.