In spring 2020, the City of Winter Park partnered with Frog, a local internet provider, to provide free Wi-Fi throughout Central and Shady parks via the Community Redevelopment Agency. Now, through COVID-19 relief funds, the City aims to implement free Wi-Fi to nearly the entire Central Business District by July 2021.
The project is part of the City’s partnership with Frog to install a complete fiber-optic cable network that will service municipal buildings and provide expanded services to local businesses and residents. The City has budgeted more than $960,000 for fiber connections and $250,000 for public Wi-Fi from the nearly $13 million of funding received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
According to Peter Moore, division director of the Office of Management and Budget, the installation involves attaching tiny nodes that provide 300MB/second speeds to the decorative streetlights already in place along Park and New England avenues.
“This really came out of the pandemic when we were looking to provide city residents and businesses with safe outdoor, engaging space,” Moore said. “Plus, there were kids trying to participate in school with slow internet speeds.”
The 48-strand fiber optic network will connect all City buildings to enhance cybersecurity, and the City and Frog will share the cost of materials and installation for the project. According to Moore, all materials for the installation have arrived and contractors should start pulling fiber by mid-July and all buildings should be outfitted with broadband fiber by August of 2023.
This project is not the only effort the City is making toward advancing the technology in Winter Park. During a June 23 meeting, commissioners took the first steps to create a new Broadband and Smart City Ad-Hock Committee to explore ways to implement new, smart technologies to serve residents, businesses, and the local government. The commission plans to continue its discussions for the project at a meeting scheduled for July 14.