People who happen to be in downtown Houston will be surprised to discover free Wi-Fi service in certain areas, thanks to the city, which is using the excess capacity from the parking meter Wi-Fi network, to provide access to residents and visitors. To find out where there’s access, go to the Houston Wi-Fi map.
Unlike Houston’s earlier plans to set up a citywide Wi-Fi network using EarthLink, the downtown hotzone is modest. EarthLink canceled its Houston plans and had to pay a $5 million termination fee, which the city plans to use later for hotzones. The downtown network does not seem to be one of these projects, but it’s a clever way to provide a useful service to visitors, by simply piggybacking on an existing network.
I find downtown hotzones such as Houston’s to be very useful when I am in a city looking up an address on a Google map or searching for a restaurant or cafe. Because the time I spend online is very short, I can’t be bothered to pay for access and I don’t need a lot of bandwidth. So providing free Wi-Fi access makes a lot of sense and is very visitor-friendly.
For more information on the Houston downtown network, go to Dwight Silverman’s blog post on the Houston Chronicle website.