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May 9, 2018

Colby, Central Maine Growth Council partner on Waterville free public wifi

Photo / Maureen Milliken The north end of downtown Waterville, including 173 Main St., left, owned by Colby College, is part of the area that will get free public wifi in a partnership with Colby and the Central Maine Growth Council.

Waterville is getting free public downtown wireless through a partnership between Colby College and the Central Maine Growth Council.

The move is designed to support local businesses and attract new ones, enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors to downtown and help to make Waterville even more of a destination, said a joint news release from both organizations.

Axiom, a broadband company that focuses on rural areas , and FirstLight Fiber, will provide the service, which will go live this month.

Colby contributed the initial investment of money, and the CMGC will manage the annual operating costs. Colby officials wouldn’t say what the cost was. The cost to run the service was also not immediately available.

The free service will cover most of downtown, Hathaway Creative Center at the south end of Main Street north several blocks to Post Office Square, and from The Concourse east to Head of Falls along the Kennebec River. The city is planning a riverwalk park in the now largely vacant 14-acre Head of Falls, and the free wifi will enhance that project, the release said.

The wireless signals will be strongest outdoors and are primarily intended for use in public spaces.

Some other towns and cities also offer free public wifi, mostly through Axiom and Redzone, including Millinocket, Augusta, South Portland’s Mill Creek Park in the Knightville neighborhood and Camden, among others.

The fact that free public downtown wifi is not widely offered in other communities gives Waterville a competitive edge, said Garvan Donegan, senior economic development specialist at the Central Maine Growth Council.

“Our goal is to use free public wifi to create a cohesive experience downtown that attracts new and existing business growth via access to reliable Internet and that can be utilized by the entire community,” he said.

Brian Clark, Colby vice president of planning, said that technology and connectivity are essential to the city’s growth.

“We saw this as an opportunity to offer a service that could benefit everyone and at the same time create another draw for investors,” Clark said. “Ultimately, Waterville’s emergence as a technological center will play a role in making the city more attractive to residents, visitors and businesses.”

The college has made a $50 million investment in downtown Waterville, including buying and renovating four buildings and constructing a 150,000-square-foot mixed use building slated to open in August.

Clark said the service will enhance the experience of those moving to downtown Waterville, as well as those who already live in and around the core of the city. It will also help vendors at outdoor events like the farmers' market and the annual Taste of Waterville celebration, he said.

The service’s landing page will also provide the Central Maine Growth Council with the ability to promote local events and activities.


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