Washington, D.C., Extends Free Wi-Fi Coverage to the National Mall

Free Wi-Fi hot spots include Smithsonian and National Air and Space museums.

by / September 8, 2010
Bryan Sivak, chief technology officer, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Washington, D.C.

Who flew the Spirit of St. Louis airplane that's parked in the National Air and Space Museum? For visitors there, the answer -- Charles Lindbergh -- is now a click away, and it doesn't require a smartphone and wireless subscription.

The National Mall in Washington, D.C., has been covered by free Wi-Fi hot spots, officials announced Wednesday, Sept. 8 -- a new service made possible through cooperation of Washington, D.C.'s technology office, federal agencies and private-sector partners.

Six hot spots are now live from 3rd Street to 14th Street on the mall, where the Smithsonian museums and other prominent federal buildings are located. A few more hot spots will be added later, according to Rebekah Kenefick of the Washington, D.C., Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), including at the U.S. Department of Commerce building that's under construction.

Washington, D.C., had to partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. General Services Administration, National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution because the mall is federal land and not controlled by the District of Columbia government. Those federal agencies are anchor institutions for the Wi-Fi hot spots on the mall.

Network hardware for hot spots on the National Mall was donated by Cisco, and Broomfield, Colo.-based communications firm Level 3 donated the Internet service, according to the OCTO.

"Now anyone can enhance the experience of a tourist visit, work break or fitness walk on the mall with all the rich resources available on the Internet -- information, music, maps, video and more," Washington, D.C., Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak said in a prepared statement. "This is one more example of how we're deploying technology to make life and work for residents, businesses and visitors more convenient, efficient and fun."

The new hot spots are now part of more than 220 Wi-Fi hot spots installed by the OCTO across the city. Many of them are located at police stations, public libraries and schools. The technology office has been working on a digital divide initiative, of which enhanced Internet coverage is a part.

The Web content available through the hot spots is unfiltered, except at hot spots located at schools, officials said.

A plotted map of all of Washington, D.C.'s free Wi-Fi hot spots is available.


Matt Williams Associate Editor