Wireless Web access now available downtown
Democrat and Chronicle
Jack Jones, Staff writer

(September 23, 2005) — CANANDAIGUA — Armed with several pairs of scissors, city officials on Thursday symbolically severed the umbilical wire during a ceremony marking the municipality’s entry into the world of Wi-Fi.

“This is an exciting addition to our downtown,” Mayor Ellen Polimeni said during the outdoor ceremony at Canandaigua Commons park, where several laptop computers were turned on and quickly accessed the Internet — with no wires attached.

Earlier this year, the city announced its plan to become the first municipality in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region to provide the free service along about a half-mile stretch of Main Street in the heart of the downtown business district.

“As far as Wi-Fi goes, we’re leading the cutting edge in the Rochester area,” said Canandaigua City Manager Stephen Cole.

The public Wi-Fi is a $3,000 add-on to a $50,000 emergency services system installed earlier this year in Canandaigua’s police and fire vehicles that allow instant access to federal, state and local law enforcement data and vehicle records.

Cole said the service, first switched on for testing about three weeks ago, has already proved popular with area residents and visitors who have used it.

Some landlords have begun advertising the new service as a feature to attract tenants, he said.

The area is now “lit up” with the Wi-Fi signal broadcast from a tower atop the city police station off Ontario Street and is boosted by a small downtown antenna that provides service to about 180 businesses and 70 apartment dwellers in the area.

The signal could be beamed to other locations — including the popular Canandaigua lakefront and City Pier — by installing another antenna at a cost of about $3,500, said Mark Hamilton, president of the Victor-based Integrated Systems firm that set up the service.

Canandaigua_network_wifi“This is a service that could be expanded if the desire is there for it,” said Polimeni. “This is sort of a pilot program right now, and we’re going to be looking for public feedback.”

Although the system has a security firewall built into it, people who log on to the Internet through the Canandaigua Wi-Fi connection are advised to maintain their own firewalls and anti-virus software for protection against hackers and eavesdroppers.

The system is designed so that about 1,000 users can be logged on at a time, Hamilton said, adding that additional bandwidth can be added to provide access to a virtually unlimited number of users.