January 10, 2013 By Jessica Renee Napier
To Kristopher Pacunas, the Internet is like a public utility.
“If your Internet is down,” he said, “it’s like losing electricity.”
Pacunas is the IT director in Amherst, Mass. On Jan. 2, Pacunus and his staff of seven announced public access to high-speed outdoor Wi-Fi in the city’s downtown core. The new network provides business owners, shoppers and residents with free Internet access.
Although public Wi-Fi is popping up in many public spaces across the country, some jurisdictions still struggle with implementing reliable connectivity that can accommodate many users at once.
On the day of the announcement, almost 3,000 people connected to the network, and Pacunas predicts that eventually, about 1,000 people will be using the network at any given time. Laptop and desktop users can connect at 80 Mbps, while mobile devices and tablets can access 40 Mbps connectivity.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.