Most people have come to expect to find an outdoor, public WiFi network wherever they are. Visitors to the Haynie’s Corner Arts District are no different. First designated as an arts district in 2006, Haynie’s Corner has become a destination for dining, shopping, and events year-round.
Even though individual businesses each had their own WiFi, most signals did not extend beyond their walls. The brick and plaster construction of 1880s-era buildings in the area made it difficult to extend the signal outside. With numerous outdoor events such as First Fridays, Brewbeque, and Funk in the City, the need for a strong and reliable WiFi signal in the area was growing.
Artists and vendors participating in festivals needed to use smartphone apps like Square or PayPal to sell their wares. Local restaurants wanted patrons to be able to post more easily to social media. And many area residents did not have reliable WiFi available to them in their own homes.
An Outdoor WiFi Network for a Public Space
The Haynie’s Corner Arts District Association (HCADA) is a group of neighbors, business owners, and civic organizations seeking continued improvement in the neighborhood.
One problem identified was poor cell phone coverage in the area. Weak cell signals meant people couldn’t access data on their smartphones. No smartphone data meant less sharing on social media and more difficulty in researching menus before people visit a restaurant. Additionally, it creates difficulty for a vendor using a point-of-sale app on their smartphone during an outdoor event. Obviously, free public WiFi would increase business all around the area.
Bringing Public WiFi Coverage to the Arts District
In seeking to remedy the area’s poor cell phone coverage, the HCADA asked Lieberman Technologies to bring an outdoor, public WiFi network to the Arts District. Initial equipment costs were covered by the Association. Funk in the City partnered with the Association to cover the main cost of installation and programming. Monthly operating costs are covered by several of the District’s restaurants and businesses.
Lieberman Technologies did a site review of the area and the existing internet infrastructure. Among the factors considered were the seasons; tree coverage during a January site review is going to show a lot of range without leaves on the trees. During the summer, when the old oaks and other mature trees are full of leaves, the internet coverage of a wireless network can be severely impacted.
With these considerations, the best position for equipment would be in three primary locations: Fountain View Mini Mart, Haynie’s Corner Pub, and the apartments at 1012 SE Second Street. As a result, the access points are arranged to provide overlapping coverage. Each has an advertised range of approximately 600 feet. However, buildings, trees, and other objects can impact the signals and lessen their range. Smartphones typically can only connect to these signals within a 150-200 foot range. Still, the overlapping signals in the fountain area allow thousands of visitors, as well as neighborhood residents, to connect to the public WiFi network – for free.
There is also some indoor coverage for these signals. This coverage is dependent upon building structure, proximity to an access point, and device capabilities. All in all, this project provides a stronger Internet connectivity in the area than what was previously available.
Announcing the Outdoor, Public WiFi Network toEvansville
On September 22, 2016, HCADA held a press conference in the fountain area of Haynie’s Corner. Mayor Lloyd Winnecke announced the completion of the first phase of the project and invited the attending public to access the WiFi.
Future plans for the public WiFi project include extending coverage to a larger portion of the Arts District neighborhood. This will consist of extending the signal to the Sixth Street Soapery along Washington Avenue and to Goosetown Park along Adams Avenue.
“We didn’t have any speedbumps working with Lieberman Technologies,” said Mary Allen, HCADA Board President and owner of the Sixth Street Soapery. “We are in an economically diverse neighborhood, so we are glad to get Internet to some of the neighborhood kids too.”