The Nashville Technology Council is planning to create a free wireless Internet network in Nashville’s central business district that could eventually be expanded through the city.
Council President and CEO Tod Fetherling told NashvillePost.com today that the organization wants to implement a wireless mesh network from networking company Meraki. In its pilot phase, the system should provide a free outdoor signal within a 0.9-mile radius of the system’s main transmitter, which would be located at the Tech Council’s headquarters at Third Avenue and Commerce Street. That roughly encompasses the area between Interstate 65 in the east, Interstate 40 in the west, Bicentennial Mall to the north and past Korean Veterans Boulevard to the south.
Businesses on the outskirts of that coverage area then could buy smaller transmitters, or “nodes,” that would mesh with the network to extend the signal outward. Companies would connect the transmitter to their existing network and partition off as much bandwidth as they’d like to contribute to the public network, Fetherling said.
“So as we go out the corridors – West End Avenue, Gallatin Road, Murfreesboro Road – businesses every mile or so can put one of these units in and it extends the WiFi circuit out there,” Fetherling said.
Businesses stand to benefit from providing free connectivity to Nashville’s visitors, Fetherling said. For one, business travelers will be able to work remotely without having to search for a coffee shop, and all visitors will be able to find a coffee shop or any other business more easily when they’re out and about.
“We build streets to connect people to do commerce. It’s the same reason we need a WiFi network – to do commerce, to connect people and make it easier for them to get from point A to point B,” Fetherling said.
To start, the program will go through a month-long pilot period that will begin later this month or in early February. The launch will cost about $3,100, which covers a couple of main transmitters and a solar-powered unit that could be used for outdoor events. Participating businesses would pay a one-time fee of $200 for a node to connect to the network.