Using custom-made wireless access points, the town of Amherst, Mass. -- a college town with a downtown area that spans about a mile long -- is now delivering the fastest open municipal Wi-Fi network in the state as of Jan. 2, 2013.

“In this day and age downtown WiFi is really a must. It’s a tool for businesses, a great service for residents and without question it brings more people to the downtown Amherst area,” said Town Manager John Musante in a press release.

Though the new system -- which offers speeds up to 50 Mbps for laptops and desktops and 25 Mbps for smartphones and tablets -- hasn’t been publicized, hundreds of people are using it at any given time, and more than 11,000 different people have already used the new system at least once.

“I received a call from someone who lives in a house on Spring Street only minutes after we had to reboot that portion of the system for maintenance, and the new network hadn’t even been announced yet," said IT Director Kristopher Pacunas. "As word spreads about what we’ve built, we expect as many as 2,000 daily users.”

The network is optimized to provide superior connectivity with handheld devices and tablets, something many Wi-Fi networks struggle to deliver. In total, more than 30 access points are deployed on buildings and on street lights.

“The initial goal was to replace aging legacy access points in the downtown area with ones that would reach farther and provide faster speeds for residents, business and visitors in downtown Amherst," Pacunas said. "I’m very excited to say we have exceeded even our own expectations and we are no doubt now one of the foremost leaders in municipal Public WiFi."

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia