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City signals end to downtown WiFi service

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A man uses his phone while walking down the street in downtown Greenville on Wednesday. The city of Greenville is expected to end its public WiFi service in the area, in part due to the advent of cellular networks.

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By Bobby Burns
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A lightning strike and the advent of smartphones has signaled the end of city WiFi in downtown Greenville.

The free service installed by the city in 2007 allowed people to access the internet from Reade Circle north to First Street and from Pitt Street east to Reade Street, according to a memo to distributed to the City Council.

The signal was never strong enough to penetrate most buildings in the area, so service was primarily accessibly in common areas outside — at least until a lightning strike in March damaged components of the wireless network, rendering most of the service inoperable.

Rather than repair the equipment, the city Information Technology department has asked to discontinue the service and save the money because most people access the internet through their cellular network and other sources.

“As smartphones and tablet computers have become more prevalent, usage of the WiFi service has greatly declined,” said the memo from Information Technology Director Rex Wilder to Assistant City Manager Ken Graves.

Most business downtown also offer free WiFi to their patrons, and the city offers it to visitors in public buildings and the Town Common.

Usage of the public WiFi offered by the city downtown has dropped from 20,000 connections during its first three months of operation to 1,000 connections in February, the memo said.

“Current plans are not to purchase a new wireless internet network to replace the WiFi service that was installed in 2007,” the memo said. “The cost would be more than the benefit, especially since the city would be competing with downtown businesses and wireless carriers that provide WiFi services.”

The outdated wireless equipment will be removed as convenient opportunities present themselves, the memo said.

CITY COUNCIL

A disputed request to rezone property in a residential area along Farmville Boulevard for commercial development is among several items of business on the agenda for its meeting set for 6 p.m. today in the council chambers at City Hall, 200 W. Fifth St. 

Kenneth and Christine Lloyd Sr. have asked to rezone 1.3 acres along the eastern right-of-way of Watauga Avenue south of Farmville Boulevard from residential (high density multi-family) to heavy commercial. The section of Farmville Boulevard is part of the 10th Street Connector project east of Memorial Drive, where several properties have been demolished.

The request is not in compliance with the city land-use plan and was not recommended for approval by city staff. The city Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend the council deny the request.

The Lloyds told the zoning commission they purchased the properties in the location to develop “a positive” for the area. The location once housed a convenience store that was a nuisance and since has been demolished.

Kenneth Lloyd also removed single-family homes on the lot that no longer were habitable, he said. Another building on the lot was demolished as part of the Connector project. He said he did not want to build a convenience store on the lot because of past issues but did not discuss his plans further.

Three people who live near the property spoke in opposition during the zoning hearing and said they were concerned commercial development would adversely affect area’s residential value.

Three other rezoning requests and an annexation also are on the agenda. A public hearing is scheduled before each request.

■ Bill Clark Homes has asked the city to annex 13.6 acres at the terminus of Charity Lane for the development of Charleston Village. The land is located off Frog Level Road north of Davenport Farm Road.

■ McKesson Properties has asked to rezone a 9,670-square-foot lot along the eastern right-of-way of McKinley Avenue south of West Fifth Street from residential (high density multi-family) to downtown commercial fringe

■ Synergy Properties has asked to rezone two acres in the Lake Ellsworth area along Ellsworth Drive north of Briarcliff Drive from residential-single-family (medium density) to residential (high density multi-family).

■ Jack Somers has asked to rezone 1.66 acres at the southeastern corner of South Memorial Drive and Whitley Drive from general commercial to heavy commercial.

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