Parkland city officials would love to have a citywide Wi-Fi system but will settle for hot spots in city parks.
At last week’s workshop, IT manager Ted Franklin told officials that the initial infrastructure costs of setting up the system would be about $8 million to $10 million. The city would also need additional manpower to maintain the system, he said.
With officials ruling out spending that kind of money, the discussion next turned to providing Wi-Fi at parks, starting with Pine Trails Park. It would require $300,000 to provide the service at the park, Franklin said.
The city would have to spend a large amount of money even for providing the service at all city parks, Mayor Michael Udine said. “I’d like to see free Wi-Fi all over the city, but the cost is just so enormous. I don’t think it is a priority to spend $300,000 on Wi-Fi in a park.”
Vice Mayor Christine Hunschofsky wasn’t sold on the idea. “What is the use of Wi-Fi if you have a Smartphone that makes a hot spot,” she asked. “It sounds good, and I don’t doubt that it will be used by some people, but I don’t know if we should be spending so much money for something that is not the future of technology.”
Commissioner Dave Rosenof suggested providing Wi-Fi only in certain areas within parks, like concession and restroom areas. The conversation then veered toward a considerably less expensive option, providing Wi-Fi hot spots. That, officials concluded, was the best way to go forward.
It is not just money that stands between Parkland and a citywide Wi-Fi system. The city lacks available utility right of way and would have to spend money on either installing and maintaining a dedicated fiber loop or leasing one from a carrier.
The idea of making the entire city a Wi-Fi zone is not new. Many other cities in the county have flirted with the concept, but there hasn’t been any real success story so far. Neighboring Coral Springs provides Wi-Fi at select parks and other city facilities.
In 2005, San Francisco planned to provide the service citywide and selected a company, but dropped the project two years later. The city now has Wi-Fi installed in 31 of its parks. Nearer home, Hollywood spent $3.8 million on a system that failed and is currently not being used.
City officials will make a final decision on the issue after staff returns with a new proposal for hot spots.