Provide free outdoor Wi-Fi to downtown with a focus on Maple Street Plaza, Grand Ave., City Hall, and Grape Day Park.
The outdoor downtown Wi-Fi covers Maple Street Plaza, Grand Ave., City Hall, and Grape Day Park. Its intention was to bring some of today’s technology that our citizen use regularly to a focal point of the city. This project delivers and creates that tech friendly environment that people are coming to expect. The message it sends to our citizens is that the City of Escondido is current and meeting the needs our visitors while supporting and encouraging activity in these areas.
There were two options for this project. Either contract to a vendor and oversee the project or design, engineer, and deploy a solution using city staff. The original downtown Wi-Fi was deployed via vendor and turned out to be difficult to manage and support. The result was poor customer service and frustrated citizens, visitors, and staff. This option also turned out to be cost prohibitive for what we wanted to accomplish. In order to meet our project objectives to have a supported outdoor Wi-Fi with the desired coverage area, we elected to use city staff to complete this project. The project is now complete and has been in a test mode for the last 90 days. From the summary report below, you can see that we have had over 4,600 devises (phones, tablet, and laptops) attach downloading over 380GB of data. The monitoring software provides information of where citizens connect and the type of data they are accessing while connected. The decision to use city staff to complete the project proved to be the right choice. Because we designed, engineered, and installed the solution, staff has the knowledge it takes to support the environment. They feel a sense of ownership and responsibility because of the hard work they put into it.
The Mesh Wi-Fi network consists of 23 Meraki access points. Meraki is a Cisco branded cloud managed Wi-Fi solution. This product solution offers remote management, monitoring, alerting, reporting, filtering, 24/7 technical support, and a wide range of trouble shooting tools. We are currently under a five year support contract for both hardware and software. This solution can easily be expanded to cover more areas. We can also purchase components to setup for events like the Amgen bike race. If someone would like to connect a device, they would select the “Escondido Downtown Wifi” network under their network Wi-Fi settings. When joining the network, they will be required to accept the “Terms and Agreements” on a “splash page”. This splash page is completely customizable and the terms and agreements can be written to address any legal requirements the city may have. Once the terms and agreements have been accepted, they are allowed on the network and granted access to the internet for a duration of one week at which point they will prompted again. The previous downtown Wi-Fi was completely vendor supported. Any issues were passed along to the vendor for resolution. Now, we are completely responsible for the mesh Wi-Fi network. The alerting and monitoring brings awareness of issues in real time. This will give us the ability to address and fix issues as they come up instead of waiting for the public to report them. We have direct access to all the equipment, knowledge of it design, setup, and configuration. We now have the ability to support the Wi-Fi network and give a high level of customer service in a timely manner. Below are screen shots of the summary page from the management console, followed by a screen shot of traffic analytics, and finally a map of the downtown indicating the locations of the access points. From the first two screens, we can tell where people are connecting on the network and what they are using the network for. With information we can start to understand why people are coming to downtown, where they are going, and confirm this is a service they will use.
Summary Report Screen Shot
Traffic Analytics Screen Shot
Map of Downtown Access Points Screen Shot
I want to thank everyone involved in this project. The decision to take on this project using city staff was not the easy one but the right one. The objectives were accomplished and the ongoing support staff was established. The evidence of use of the mesh Wi-Fi network proves there was a need for it and it is becoming expected. I believe it sends a message. The “City of Choice” is more than a concept. Projects like this make it a reality.
Robert Van De Hey
Senior Network Systems Engineer
City of Escondido