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Wireless Surfing Available Downtown


Wi-Fi network allows Net access in parks
By Monty Phan
STAFF WRITER

May 9, 2003

Standing around an office desk, several lower Manhattan leaders used a laptop to surf the Web yesterday, which was noteworthy for one reason: The desk was in the middle of Bowling Green Park.

It was part of a demonstration of a new wireless network accessible from seven public areas south of Chambers Street - one of the largest such networks in the country, said the groups behind the project. Using a laptop or handheld device equipped with a wireless modem, people can go online for free from several lower Manhattan parks and public spaces.

"You don't have to get away from the computer, the computer can come with you to the park," said Adrian Benepe, the city's Parks & Recreation commissioner. "What we say is, even when you're out to lunch, you can be online."

Besides Bowling Green Park, the other "hot spots" are Vietnam Veterans Plaza, Rector Park, Liberty Plaza, South Street Seaport, City Hall Park and in the public atrium in the lobby of 60 Wall St. The network - which runs according to an engineering standard called 802.11b, also known as "Wi-Fi," or wireless fidelity - is maintained by the Manhattan-based consulting firm Emenity.

The hot spots will be publicized by signs in each area, and downtown business groups are working with human resources departments of large companies in lower Manhattan to spread the word to employees. Shirley Jaffe, vice president of economic development for the Downtown Alliance, said she hopes the network will help area business owners by making it easier for people to find information about downtown retailers, restaurants and attractions.

It's the most industrious Wi-Fi effort so far in the city, although similar networks exist in Bryant Park, Tompkins Square and Madison Square. Benepe, the parks commissioner, said the department likely will ask to expand the program to include other parks. However, establishing a wireless network in large areas such as Central Park or Prospect Park is more difficult because their interiors are far from surrounding buildings, the proximity to which makes the networks easier to set up and maintain. Otherwise, the necessary equipment must be attached to park fixtures.

Because individuals can configure small, inexpensive wireless networks by themselves, it's difficult to rank Lower Manhattan's new setup, said Ian McPherson, principal analyst for the California-based Wireless Data Research Group. But he said it's probably among the more wireless-friendly areas in the country, which include Denver, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore.

"I would say if it's not the largest in square meters," McPherson said, "it's probably the largest in terms of cohesive infrastructure."

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.
www.newsday.com/business/printedition/ny-bzwire093275409may09,0,3169979.story?coll=ny%2Dbusiness%2Dprint

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