Infrastructure

Scranton City Leaders Mull Free Downtown Wi-Fi

The Wi-Fi project would install 40 interactive kiosks in the downtown area, as well as 200 mobile beacons to provide free Internet access to the city.

by Clayton Over, The Times-Tribune / June 9, 2017
Downtown Scranton, Pa. Flickr/Brand Clinesmith

(TNS) — Scranton City Council voted to explore a proposal that would bring informative kiosks and free public Wi-Fi downtown — and revenue to the city.

City administration and council members have been in contact for a few months with representatives of Smart City Media LLC to look into the possibility of working together to install digital kiosks that would provide information to residents and visitors. Tom Touchet, CEO of the company, spoke to council members at a caucus before Thursday’s meeting and outlined what a contract with Scranton would entail.

The company, which also works with other cities, including New York City, Washington, D.C., and Kansas City, Missouri, would install 40 of the kiosks throughout the downtown area. The kiosks feature interactive digital screens that display information about transportation, entertainment and public safety, as well as advertisements.

The company would also install 200 mobile beacons that would provide free Wi-Fi to the area, Touchet said. The installations would come at no cost to the city. The contract would also include an advertising revenue-sharing plan between the company and Scranton that would net the city a projected $800,000-plus over the course of a five-year contract, according to figures Touchet presented during the caucus.

Each council member voiced support for the partnership before unanimously voting to advance legislation toward entering into a contract with the company.

“I think this is going to put Scranton on the map in the area of technology and really be one of the first smart cities in Pennsylvania,” Councilman Bill Gaughan said. “What this does is it enables communities to be better connected.”

A final vote on the Smart City Media contract will occur in the coming weeks, council President Joe Wechsler said.

In other business, the sale of the Scranton Sewer Authority sparked comment and questions from residents, including inquiries about council’s request to have the state attorney general’s office look into the sale and the status of Mayor Bill Courtright’s planned town hall meeting regarding the sale.

Council electronically sent a letter Monday to the attorney general’s office asking the agency to review the sale but had not yet heard anything back, Gaughan said before the meeting.

On May 25, Courtright announced plans were in progress for a town hall discussion about the sewer sale. On Thursday, exactly two weeks after the announcement, city resident Joan Hodowonitz asked council if there was any word on the meeting and criticized the delay.

“This is a stall tactic, plain and simple,” she said.

Courtright did not return a phone message seeking comment Thursday night. Wechsler told Hodowonitz he had talked to the mayor about the meeting and that Courtright is still lining up people to attend and help answer people’s questions.

“The meeting is going to occur fairly soon,” Wechsler said.

©2017 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.