(News Courier (Athens, AL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 07--Ever been watching a baseball game or playing with your kids at the park and wished you had Internet access to upload photos or check email?
Those visiting Athens Sportsplex on U.S. 31 in Athens will soon be capable of surfing the web at the park.
Athens City Council recently agreed to spend up $6,675 for five outdoor wireless access points, service agreements, mounting hardware and cables to establish wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi, access points at the Sportsplex.
City of Athens Information Technology Director Dale Haymon said the Wi-Fi "hotspots" would be located at the compressed natural gas station, swimming pool and three concessions stands, including the soccer field.
He believes Wi-Fi access is important to the city for a couple of reasons. First, it helps the Parks and Recreation Department compete for more tournaments in Athens.
"One of the first things asked is if we have Wi-Fi?" Haymon said, adding he believes Wi-Fi would help bring "bigger and better tournaments" to the area.
Second, it will provide a place with access for students who don't have it at home. Haymon referred to the Athens City Schools' Power Up initiative, which is currently underway. The program involves putting laptops in the hands of middle and high school students that can be taken home.
Haymon said officials would have the ability to turn off access at certain times, if needed. He said the amount of bandwidth one person could use at one time could also be limited through bandwidth throttling, which is a way to minimize congestion.
The city hopes to bring Wi-Fi to more public areas in the future, Haymon said. He believes it is important for the community and can be used as a way to encourage businesses to come to the area.
"Everybody has to be wired now," Haymon said. "We don't want to lose a competitive advantage. It has a dual purpose and is a win-win for the city, schools and citizens."
Chris Hamilton, coordinator of technology resources for Athens City Schools, said the school system is pleased with the city's responsiveness to the needs of students as it relates to Wi-Fi access. "Having Internet access at the Sportsplex will be a great benefit to many of our students that do not have access at home and (it) also brands the city as tech-friendly," Hamilton said. "This is yet another positive example of how our city government supports the best interests of families in this community."
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