By Sue Moore
The Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the village of Vicksburg are bringing outdoor Wi-Fi to the downtown through the good offices of Andy and Steve DeVries. They are two techies who grew up in the area, graduated from the local school system in the early 90s and have gone on to succeed in high-visibility technology companies.
They have proposed to the DDA that they provide the wireless Internet service at no charge to the village and at $35 monthly to participating businesses, saying they feel it is time to give back to their community. It has taken over a year to put a proposal together to make this project a reality. But DDA Director Kathleen Hoyle has buttoned up the deal by getting 10 downtown businesses to contribute $100 up front to pay for the required insurance and do a 90 day demonstration test beginning December 1. If it works to everyone’s satisfaction, then it can become a permanent offering downtown for visitors to the village and those needing a good Wi-Fi connection inside their buildings.
To actually make this happen, Andy DeVries will don a harness and climbing boots to climb the village water tower and place broadcast transmitters atop the tower. They will be pointed toward Main and Prairie streets to cover about a six-block radius initially. Wireless repeater boxes will be placed upon selected lampposts along the two main thoroughfares. This will allow a strong enough signal for most people seeking to connect to a hotspot, through an Internet portal offered by the village. If a business needs a stronger signal inside its building, a radio can be purchased to increase the capacity of the signal. But most of the customers in local shops will find the signal strong enough from the nearest pole outside, DeVries noted.
The intention of the project is to bring today’s Internet technology into the central business district for use by visitors in a variety of ways including awareness building, product/service ordering, and creation of Internet cafes, Hoyle pointed out.
The likely beneficiaries of this service would be the restaurants, who could receive orders for food from people who are attending a Vicksburg football or basketball game and want to beat the rush afterwards, Hoyle said. That might also include visitors at the annual Old Car Festival, Taste of Vicksburg, events at the pavilion or the various school buildings.
Connection to the downtown Wi-Fi will be through a Village portal web page which will host advertisements for those businesses who pay for advertising space and web links from the portal page as well as provide a link to the Internet, Hoyle said. Phase two of the project will give businesses the opportunity to use the Wi-Fi as their primary Internet service to help minimize the cost of Internet access. There will be some direct costs associated with this setup, including a monthly charge of $35, a one-time cost of $67 for a radio and a $50 setup fee.
All of the work will be performed by Andy and Steve DeVries’ Digital Example, LLC. They are providing the service at no cost to the village, fronting the cost of equipment in hopes of breaking even sometime in the future. They are not planning to provide residential service, pointing out that customers with Comcast in the village would not be eligible. Andy DeVries can be reached at 269-382-3334.