City activates free WiFi in Inner Harbor - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Sep. 8, 2014 1:36 pm

City activates free WiFi in Inner Harbor

The 10 hotspots went live Monday, just in time for the Star-Spangled Spectacular.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake snaps a selfie with acting CTO L. Jerome Mullen, IT project manager Varghese Paranilam and Waterfront Partnership President Laurie Schwartz.

(Photo by Tyler Waldman)

O say can you … sign in?

If you’re at the Inner Harbor with a WiFi-enabled device, you can now.

Days ahead of the Star-Spangled Celebration (which starts Wednesday), Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and acting Baltimore city CTO L. Jerome Mullen announced Monday the installation of 10 WiFi hotspots around the Inner Harbor.

“Our Inner Harbor is an internationally recognized attraction, so it only makes sense that we provide residents and visitors with access to the World Wide Web,” Rawlings-Blake said. “My administration will continue to pursue 21st century policies that create better-connected communities.”

(Photo by Tyler Waldman)

One of the 10 hotspots activated Monday. (Photo by Tyler Waldman)

The hotspots, served by fiber optic cable and antennas, serve the harbor promenade from the west side of the World Trade Center to the Rusty Scupper and 100 feet into the water. Service went live Monday. The access point is called Baltimore Free WiFi. Users are asked to enter their zip code or country, gender and age group and agree to the service’s terms and conditions — then it’s off to the races.

“Having WiFi here is going to make the harbor an even more productive location for visitors and for locals,” said Waterfront Partnership President Laurie Schwartz.

The hotspots can support thousands of concurrent users (like the thousands the city is expecting for the Star-Spangled Celebration) at a speed of 4 Mbps, Mullen said. The service could also allow city employees working in the area to file reports from the field, Mullen said.

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The harbor buildout cost $25,000 and was paid for through the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology budget.

"Anyone walking around the Inner Harbor will be able to check their email, post selfies if they like to or do online shopping."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

“We wanted to build something sustainable. We wanted to build our fiber optic network,” Mullen said.

Cogent provides service to the harbor hotspots, Mullen said. Along the promenade that runs parallel to Light Street, the hotspots are served via fiber optics. On the north and south sides of the promenade, the hotspots are served via airFiber, Mullen said.

Through different contractors, the city already offers free WiFi access in the city’s public markets (like Cross Street and Lexington markets) and around Penn Station. Amtrak offers free WiFi access inside the train station.

Neighboring Baltimore County has offered free WiFi in parts of central Towson since 2007 under a partnership with Towson University.

Rawlings-Blake said Monday that city officials plan to eventually expand the WiFi access from the World Trade Center to the former Baltimore Public Works Museum on President Street.

“Anyone walking around the Inner Harbor will be able to check their email, post selfies if they like to or do online shopping,” Rawlings-Blake said.

After the press conference, she, Schwartz, Mullen and a city official indeed opted to take a selfie.

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