If You Build It… They Might Not Come For WiFi

from the just-to-let-you-know... dept

Over the past couple of years there’s been this massive push by local municipalities to at least offer free WiFi in downtown areas, with the idea of making those areas more attractive and bringing in more foot-traffic for local retailers and restaurants. The idea, on its face, isn’t a bad one. Setting up and maintaining WiFi isn’t a huge expense, and if it does bring in more people, it can be worthwhile for the entire community. However, one thing that many of these local governments forgot was that just setting it up and flipping the switch doesn’t mean that people will automatically flock to your WiFi “Zone.” Coffee shops and restaurants that have installed WiFi realized years ago that it also takes a bit of a marketing and education effort if you want people to actually use it. So, it’s really no surprise to see Broadband Reports let us know that the city of Orlando, Florida is killing their free downtown WiFi and complaining that not enough people used it. It sounds like the people who set it up in Orlando didn’t really have much of a plan about how to market it and on what criteria to judge it as a success or failure. They complain that, on average, only 27 people per day used it, but that data doesn’t mean very much. Was the number growing or shrinking? Where were they using it and how long were they using it? Either way, it’s a good reminder that just because you have WiFi, doesn’t mean people with laptops will suddenly start overcrowding your downtown sidewalks.

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