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Wi-Fi to connect downtown Johnson City

Robert Houk • Apr 12, 2019 at 12:00 AM

East Tennessee State University student Austin Ramsey believes a two-year project to provide public access to Wi-Fi in downtown Johnson City will “truly connect” the university to the historic district.

“This is a big win for the ETSU community,” the Roan Scholar said at a news conference Thursday in Majestic Park. Ramsey said Wi-Fi connection will help him and his classmates to better “explore” the revitalized downtown area.

The Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded a $27,500 grant to the Johnson City Development Authority and BrightRidge to provide free Wi-Fi to a five-block area of the downtown and nearby green spaces. Areas covered by the Wi-Fi project will include Founders Park, the Pavilion at Founders Park and King Commons.

Robert Williams, the chairman of the JCDA, said the project is an “exciting initiative” that will benefit both visitors and the 59 businesses now located within the service area. He said Wi-Fi is a “tremendous asset to to the people who visit the downtown,” and will help lure more entrepreneurs to the historic district.

Diana Cantler, JCDA’s director of downtown development, said Wi-Fi access will benefit students and business people who choose a restaurant, green space or coffeehouse in the downtown to hold a meeting.

“We anticipate that it will encourage customers to stay downtown longer because they can use their tablets and laptops via Wi-Fi,” she said.

The ARC grant pays for the equipment that BrightRidge will use to provide the Wi-Fi service. Jeff Dykes, the chief executive officer of BrightRidge, said his utility’s new broadband division will provide the internet connection through the fiber optics it is now installing in south Johnson City.

“This fits well into our business plan,” Dykes said.

He said BrightRidge hopes to have much of the 1 GB service in operation for the Blue Plum Festival, which will be held June 7-8. Dykes said public Wi-Fi will allow people to spend time on their digital devices as they shop, eat and attend festivals in downtown Johnson City.

“Let’s make coming downtown an event again,” Dykes said. “This is an exciting time.”

The BrightRidge CEO said he hopes the utility will be able to offer similar services to other parks in Johnson City and to downtown Jonesborough.

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