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Mansfield to offer WiFi throughout the town

MANSFIELD — The residents of Mansfield will find it easier to “get connected” following a test of free WiFi in the downtown area.

Mayor Jefferson Riley said Monday that the city is completing a 30-day test of the free wireless Internet connection in downtown and will expand the service throughout the city limits.

Riley said the 30-day test “went really well,” with 20 or so people in the town of about 420 connected to the Internet at any given time.

“I can tell you the barbecue place (Where There’s Smoke) is loving it,” said Riley. “Everybody who goes in gets on it.”

The project began with the installation of a main WiFi unit at City Hall and a couple of antennas in the immediate area. Riley said the antennas are about as big around as a quarter and about a foot tall. They will be installed about 1,000 feet apart.

With the test successfully completed, Riley said he and a city worker will install the remaining antennas and repeater boxes on utility poles throughout town of 1.1 square miles. The poles already are equipped with power outlets, so it’s just a matter of “plugging it in and it automatically finds the next one to it,” Riley said.

Riley said the project will cost about $3,500 total and could be funded through special purpose local option sales tax revenues as part of infrastructure upgrades.

“There are people who don’t have an Internet connection, and this is a service that is needed and a good way to give back to the people of our community,” said Riley.

Right now the service is free, and Riley said he would encourage the City Council to keep it that way.

“The city hasn’t decided if it will charge for it,” Riley said. “We have discussed that if we do charge for it, it won’t exceed $15 a month.”

In another nod to modern technology, Riley said a wireless camera will be installed in the downtown area in the near future with a link on the city’s website, www.mansfieldga.gov.

“Once we get the camera installed, anybody can go to that link and they can see the downtown area of Mansfield,” he said.

Riley said the camera, which will cost about $100, will offer heightened security in the downtown area and help draw attention to the city.