As the MIS Director and our online communications guy, I’m actually quite fortunate because I get to work on a number of really interesting projects, such as the Hive at 55, our Web site and all of our social media efforts. But right now, the most challenging (and frustrating) project is our WiFi service. Until the end of October, the Downtown Alliance was the proud manager of nine WiFi hotspots around Lower Manhattan. We’ve been running them for about five years and during the warmer weather people are always hanging out in our parks enjoying the sun and the hotspots. But at the end of October, our contract with our provider ended and we started a contract with our new provider, Sky-Packets. Unfortunately, our old provider decided to make our life as difficult as possible.
Also, once we switched providers, WiFi became my project. Now I joke that for as long as I ‘ve been running our WiFi, no one’s been able to use it.
Here’s how this happened:
First, our previous provider gave us very little information about the existing hotspot configurations. Thankfully, Sky-Packets has been great about scoping out the existing locations. Then, when we offered our previous provider a four-month extension to make the transition easier for our constituents, they never responded and when the contract expired, they shut the hotspots down. And sadly, they have been down for over two weeks.
To make matters worse, when we tried to get new Internet service installed at each of the nine hotspots, our accounts were canceled by the Internet provider (by mistake) –- after they had already been expedited! I think that was when I started banging my head against the wall over and over again, but since my memory hasn’t been so good since I did that, I’m not so sure.
If it wasn’t for Nick, our database manager and social media guy (he does all of our Twitter and Facebook posts, and all of the crazy hyperlinks on this blog), I’m not sure where we’d be right now. But he stayed on the phone with the Internet provider hour after hour making sure each and every account was correct.
And now I’m excited to announce that we should have Internet set up at each of the nine hotspots this week. Even better, we should be able to roll out the new and improved hotspots this week. It will take some time to install the new equipment and test it after the Internet has been set up, but we will announce each hotspot as it goes live via Twitter and Facebook and our Web site.
If everything goes according to plan, you should be able to enjoy each and every WiFi hotspot in Lower Manhattan by Thanksgiving –- though we’ll hopefully have the first couple ready for use this week.
My next piece on WiFi will explain why this has been more than just an installation, but an expansion and upgrade of the service we had before. To me, that’s what makes this project so interesting. There is just so much potential for WiFi in Lower Manhattan — and we’re working to reach that full potential. If you have any ideas for WiFi Downtown you want to share, let me know.