Westerville's WeConnect network offers free drive-up connectivity

MARLA K. KUHLMAN
mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Westerville is offering free drive-up Wi-Fi access points powered by its WeConnect Data Center, and there are plans to offer additional locations to connect this fall.

Christa Dickey, Westerville's community-affairs director, said each location is served with one gigabit of bandwidth, allowing students to perform school work and providing anyone else with access to high-speed internet.

In March 2012 Westerville opened its 16,000-square-foot community data center, which is linked to the city's fiber-optic infrastructure called WeConnect.

The access points and drive-up Wi-Fi zones are provided by the city and powered by WeConnect.

Dickey said those locations in the Uptown Westerville area offer access seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.:

* City building parking lot, 64 E. Walnut St.

* Westerville Public Library parking lot, 126 S. State St.

* Intersection of South State and West Park streets

* Westerville City Hall, 21 S. State St.

* Intersection of North State Street and West College Avenue.

* Intersection of North State and West Main streets.

Once users are at an access point or drive-up Wi-Fi zone, they can connect a mobile device to the "WeConnect" network.

Dickey said access points in Uptown on State Street were installed in May 2014.

The drive-up lots behind 64 E. Walnut St. and the Westerville library have been available since early May.

All city public facilities have had free public Wi-Fi since 2005, she said.

"We started heavily promoting and branding as WeConnect about a year ago," she said. "We have a plan to continue to promote them as they come online."

Todd Jackson, Westerville's chief information officer, said the city hopes to add more access points further south and east.

"We've looked at other locations in Blendon Township," he said. "There's some neighborhoods close to the Kroger Shopping Center at Sunbury (Road) and 161, anywhere we have the WeConnect fiber. A lot of things need to be looked at. Public parking lots are the easiest and quickest."

He said the goal is to add more spots this fall.

He said it costs about $100 to set up each spot for external use.

In addition to providing a connection for families who may need access for students' distance learning, it could be beneficial for those needing to apply for unemployment or to fill out an online job application, he said.

He said each access point can handle at least 24 users.

Dickey said the goal is to first deliver services as close to neighborhoods as possible and eventually to office buildings with WeConnect fiber optics.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla