Free, wireless internet service will soon be available on the Covington square and could be expanded elsewhere downtown courtesy of the city of Covington.
Providing free, wireless internet service downtown is part of Covington's strategic plan and the council voted 6-0 Monday to spend $11,660 to install antennas and mounting boxes downtown and to run fiber optics to the square from city hall.
The internet service will extend 150 square feet from the center of the square in all directions, so it may or may not extend to the businesses around the square, said Bobby Johnson, Covington's system information manager.
The service should be up within two months.
The internet service will have a firewall to prevent users from accessing adult and other improper sites, and the internet network will be separated from the city's main network for security reasons, Johnson said.
In addition to the upfront cost, the city will have to pay $300 a month for a 5MB connection and $481.66 a year for firewall updates. The city signed three-year contracts for each, which will cost $12,245 over the contracts' life.
Councilman Chris Smith asked if Main Street Covington would be willing to share costs in the future, potentially by using tourism dollars.
The council also wanted to explore extending the free, wireless service further downtown, including the side streets leading off the square. The costs to do this were not known Monday, Johnson said, but it's doable as long as the city had places to mount the repeaters and other infrastructure.
The city can also extend wireless service anywhere it has fiber optic lines, Johnson said.
The city has $25,000 budgeted this year for both extending wireless internet service and installing a system to send out digital information and alerts to customers, Johnson said. Once costs are known for extending service, the council will decide where to expand wireless internet.