[Chtechcomm] Downtown Wireless report from the DTH

Terri Buckner tbuckner at ibiblio.org
Wed Aug 31 09:01:31 EDT 2005

Downtown wireless network slow to start
Dearmin pledges to help with effort

August 31, 2005

A downtown wireless Internet initiative that has sat idle for several 
months is slowly booting up.

The Downtown Economic Development Corporation and the town’s Technology 
Committee are discussing the possibility of bringing wireless Internet 
access to the downtown sector.

After the corporation proposed the idea earlier this year, the Chapel 
Hill Town Council formally referred the issue to Town Manager Cal Horton 
and the committee on June 27.

Corporation Executive Director Liz Parham, hired in late July, met 
Monday with committee Chairman Gregg Gerdau and member Steve Irving to 
discuss plans for moving ahead with the initiative.

“We need to find out how we can get this off the ground,” Parham said.

“We need to find out the best way to do this, what areas we should start 

The corporation has thrown around the idea of creating a wireless zone 
within the downtown sector since February, but inactivity has caused 
some, including Irving, to push the corporation to begin work on the 

“There’s a lot of people talking about it, but there has been no 
action,” he said.

Carrboro completed its downtown wireless setup last fall.

Parham said Chapel Hill and the corporation will work to develop surveys 
for business owners concerning the possibility of making the Franklin 
Street area wireless.

“We’re surveying them so we can understand their needs, if they really 
want Wi-Fi,” she said.

Businesses like Woody’s Tar Heel Tavern & Grill and Jack Sprat Cafe 
already offer wireless access to its customers.

Residents of the Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods might also get 
a separate survey as some within the committee have called for those 
districts, which sit just outside the downtown district, to be included 
in the wireless zone.

“We want to make this inclusive,” Parham said. “We’ll have different 
surveys for different needs.”

But Irving said the addition of residential networks could pose a 
dilemma for the effort.

“Some people have talked about including the Northside and Pine Knolls 
neighborhoods, but at that juncture, it becomes a political issue,” he said.

Irving said that continuing the group discussions would be vital to the 
effort’s success.

“It’s very preliminary,” he said. “We’re just trying to get a feel for it.”

The process could emulate Carrboro’s wireless initiative, Irving said.

“Carrboro took two or three years to establish their service,” he said 
of the wireless zone that now ranges from Carr Mill Mall to the Century 
Center and Town Hall. “It’s a long time frame.”

Student Body President Seth Dearmin, who included a wireless initiative 
in his campaign last spring, said he hopes his administration can help 
that process move more quickly.

“We’re more than happy to help out, whether it’s writing grants or 
looking at budgets,” he said. “We definitely need to work together.”

Since being elected in February, Dearmin has consistently pledged to 
contact the town regarding the project.

When asked about the meeting between the corporation and the technology 
committee, Dearmin said he had not heard of it.

The corporation will hold its regularly scheduled meeting at 7:30 a.m. 
today at the Midway Business Center, off West Franklin Street.

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