Free public Wi-Fi coming to downtown Middletown in ‘Smart Cities’ effort

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Aerial scenes of Central Ave business district downtown Middletown

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

MIDDLETOWN — City leaders believe a downtown free public Wi-Fi network will benefit visitors and businesses.

Today, the city will celebrate First Friday and launch its “Smart Cities” network that will provide public Wi-Fi downtown. The network costs the city $39,000 for three years after City Council approved the contract last year, officials said.

The project has been discussed for more than a year and started under then-City Manager Doug Adkins. It was slowed when nodes were unable to be installed in downtown businesses because they were closed due to the coronavirus, city officials said.

Jeff Payne, executive director of Downtown Middletown Inc., said these technology networks enable a municipality to be more responsive to its citizens' and visitors' needs while also helping officials make decisions about those areas from data they collect.

The information gathered through the “Smart Cities” will help the city determine where visitors are coming from and be “very helpful” in its marketing strategy, he said.

“We will know where the gaps are,” Payne said.

Jason Praeter, president and general manager of Cincinnati Bell’s Entertainment & Communications business, said Cincinnati Bell has been connecting businesses and customers for more than 140 years. He said the Wi-Fi and Smart City partnership with the city “continues this tradition.”

He said connectivity is “particularly critical” given the challenges communities are facing during the coronavirus.

The network stretches along Central Avenue from Main Street to Clinton Street within the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) district as well as analytics and engagement software to support local businesses and drive economic development.

As part of the Sip Bite Buy program, an incentive for downtown shoppers, Cincinnati Bell will sponsor Wi-Fi Wednesdays on the third Wednesday of every month, which will feature giveaways for visitors who log onto the Wi-Fi.