A Wi-Fi Meandering

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Now that the weather has gotten warmer it was once again time to do my spring check-up on the Downtown Alliance’s Wi-Fi equipment and hotspots. I created my checklist, asking: How is the bandwidth at each location? How much coverage is still accessible at each spot? Has anything changed I should know about?

The reality is that I was pretty sure there were no problems with our hotspots for a couple of reasons. First, the Downtown Alliance only receives only one or two complaints each month. Second, in April we had the most successful month since we launched free Wi-Fi hotspots 8 years ago.

The Downtown Alliance experienced more than 18,500 connections to our Lower Manhattan Wi-Fi Network that month, and in May, we had more than 18,000 connections again.

But, my mantra is: better safe than sorry.

I met a team from Sky-Packets, our Wi-Fi vendor, at the Hive at 55, the Downtown Alliance’s co-working facility at 55 Broad Street, which Sky-Packets helps to sponsor. We walked down Broad to Beaver Street, turned right, and meandered up to the front of Bowling Green Park to start our testing.

(In addition to the testing, I wanted to snap pictures of each hotspot [check out the Downtown Alliance’s updated Wi-Fi page]).

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Everything was working at Bowling Green pretty well, so we moved further south to Peter Minuit plaza, where Broadway turns into Whitehall, for reasons unclear to me (even after a Google search!), and turns east angling to the river. Peter Minuit is the newly redesigned plaza in front of the Staten Island Ferry terminal and it is beautiful, unique-looking chairs, and has a visitor kiosk (staffed by the Downtown Alliance!) like almost nothing you’ve seen before. Seen from above it resembles a windmill, but since you probably won’t get that perspective you can check out this image from our local news source The Broadsheet.

Unfortunately, the Verizon DSL line was down and there was no service there or across the street at the Whitehall-Water Street Pedestrian Plaza. One Sky-Packets staffer stayed behind to address the problem. When we set the hotspot up, we installed what’s called an iBoot, that can check when the line is bad and reboot our Wi-Fi to see if it can get a better level of service. It worked like it was supposed and did provide some stability every time the line went down, but it wasn’t fixed until Verizon was able to solve their problem in the neighborhood (which fortunately happened that same day).

Meanwhile, I continued with the rest of the team, walking up Water Street to 55 Water (where I saw the falcons last month) and the Vietnam Memorial Plaza and Elevated Acre.

Our access points are on the 14th floor and it turned out that someone decided to put a large flood light right in front of one of our access points, but it still worked pretty well, and the other one worked great. While there were definitely some people taking advantage of our free Wi-Fi on the plaza, there was a class of high school students who were actually using pen and paper to work on something. It was strange seeing 20-30 kids, all with papers in front of them and not a single technological device in sight.

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We left that behind and walked up the steps to the Elevated Acre, one of my favorite places in Lower Manhattan, because you really forget you’re in the city and can enjoy a little bit of nature and the excitement of boats whizzing by.

Really not a bad way to spend a morning in Lower Manhattan. I’ll cover the other sites in my next meandering.

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