ITHACA, N.Y.—You can now surf the internet to your heart’s delight on the Commons, as the Downtown Ithaca Alliance has introduced its downtown community WiFi spanning all of the downtown pedestrian center.

The WiFi emanates from Center Ithaca and is assisted by boosters at either end of the Commons. It’s still early, so it’s unclear how fast or how far the internet stretches but wider public internet access has been a focus for city officials for quite a while.

“We want to make sure anybody who visits downtown has access to the technology that they expect and that they need,” said Gary Ferguson, executive director of the DIA. “We’ve always thought it was important that we find a way to help make that happen, and WiFi is one of those things that people have come to expect and appreciate. It’s an opportunity to provide WiFi access to the entire community, not just people who happen upon downtown or visitors, but a lot of locals.”

It will cost the DIA just over $1,000 per month to provide, though Ferguson said the plan is to mitigate that somewhat by offering advertising space on the network’s landing page. Those who live on the Commons shouldn’t get rid of their in-home internet subscriptions just yet, since the system is designed and intended to work outside only (though there may be some bleed-through inside).

The city and the DIA have applied for funding for a WiFi system that would cover all of downtown Ithaca in previous Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant attempts through the state, but Ithaca’s had no luck winning those awards. Ferguson said the introduction of WiFi, albeit more limited geographically, is a step in that direction.

“In the DRI grant, we talked about doing it throughout the whole target area, and that we’re not able to do,” Ferguson said. “This covers the Commons and the area right around the Commons. […] We want to position downtown as a place that’s attractive, interesting, and equipped for our businesses. WiFi just helps us reinforce that.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com