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Clermont, Fla., to Expand Public Internet Access Downtown

The expansion of outdoor Wi-Fi access points has been a frequent request from residents, but until now has been limited to city facilities.

(TNS) — Downtown Clermont, Fla., is going high tech by offering free Wi-Fi services throughout the city's downtown district.

City Manager Darren Gray said he is eager for the project to get underway.

"The city of Clermont's award-winning master plan continues to move Clermont forward. Offering free Wi-Fi in the downtown, waterfront area and along the trail will enhance our residents' and visitors' experiences while giving event organizers yet another reason to choose Clermont as their preferred location," Gray said.

The city has already been providing free Wi-Fi at all city facilities for about two years but will now make it available along outdoor event routes, along the city's waterfront, on the South Lake Trail and in its Central Business District, which encompasses Osceola Street to Desoto Street from north to south and Lake Avenue to West Avenue from east to west.

Clermont spokeswoman Kathryn Deen said the initiative was born after people began asking for the city to provide Wi-Fi at Waterfront Park.

Clermont Information Technology Supervisor Don Dennis said people at the park, at the pavilion and parents at the splash pad with their children, inquired about the possibility of getting Wi-Fi.

"It adds one more thing to make Clermont an appealing place to be," Dennis said.

Dennis began looking into the prospect and decided he could take it to the next level by incorporating Wi-Fi along the trail by simply adding onto the existing fiber optic data network.

Deen said the city has been laying fiber throughout the area for the past four years. Amplifying that is as simple as mounting Wi-Fi sensors on existing street lamps throughout downtown to allow public connectivity.

In July, the city sought proposals from companies interested in "providing a wireless solution and full turn-key installation, to deliver carrier grade Wi-Fi services throughout the city's downtown event routes and along its waterfront space."

Deen said six vendors submitted proposals, and late last month, officials chose vTECH of Naples for the job.

Currently, the city is negotiating final prices for the project and Deen anticipates that the work should be well on its way, if not completed, by January.

Deen said people using the trail will be able to use Wi-Fi to use location services on their smart devices. In the case of an emergency, a person would be able to provide an exact location for emergency personnel.

She said people with limited data will also benefit by being able to use the city's high speed Wi-Fi for livestreaming and other things.

In turn, Deen said the city will benefit by giving people the ability to spread the city's image and promote events and venues.

"What city wouldn't want people livestreaming or posting pictures on social media immediately from an event or from places like our trail or one of our lakes watching a beautiful sunset?" Deen asked.

Clermont Economic Development Director Shannon Schmidt called public Wi-Fi "a smart city tool," explaining that it is a perk many cities across the country are implementing to leverage economic and social benefits.

"Promoting connectivity becomes a solution and a catalyst. Public Wi-Fi can assist in closing the gap and help students keep pace with school work, empower residents and visitors in finding city services, way-finding, learning more about community events and safety. It encourages more people to come downtown and encourages the location of new restaurants, offices and shops," Schmidt said. "We also have an opportunity to garnish data, understanding where visitors are from, how long they are staying and what areas of the downtown they are visiting more frequently. The data becomes an important tool for business owners and the city alike."

©2018 Daily Commercial, Leesburg, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.