Shared from the 2017-11-17 Gaston Gazette eEdition

Free wireless broadband coming to downtown Belmont

Internet provider in talks to expand across Gaston County

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Open Broadband’s Kent Winrich, at far left, shows off a microwave dish that the company will use to install free wireless broadband in downtown Belmont at the TechWorks of Gaston County building in Belmont on Wednesday. [ERIC WILDSTEIN/THE GASTON GAZETTE]

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Representatives from Open Broadband, the city of Belmont and the Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce cut the ribbon on the forthcoming TechWorks of Gaston County and Open Broadband initiatives during a ceremony at TechWorks on Ervin Street in Belmont on Wednesday. [ERIC WILDSTEIN/THE GASTON GAZETTE]

Visitors to downtown Belmont will have access to free ultra-high-speed wireless internet early next year.

Open Broadband, a private North Carolina-based wireless internet provider, plans to have its unique high-speed service up and running in January 2018. Essentially, the company will install a specialized microwave dish in downtown Belmont that blasts up to a 1-gigabit Wi-Fi signal to the area along Main Street and Stowe Park, creating a downtown Wi-Fi zone which the public can access any time of day.

“Users will be able to access this network outside only, as this public Wi-Fi will not penetrate into the downtown buildings,” Belmont City Manager Adrian Miller said. “We felt that this was the next logical step to make downtown Belmont a premier regional destination for shopping, entertainment and innovation.”

With Belmont’s everincreasing foot traffic and plethora of outdoor concerts, festivals and other events downtown, the Wi-Fi zone will provide for the first time an internet network to which vendors, bands and visitors looking for a place to stay or eat can connect.

Miller says the Open Broadband service can also provide a Wi-Fi solution for the Belmont Police Department, which is in discussions to install security cameras overlooking city parks and parking lots.

Those involved with the project officially unveiled its plans Wednesday evening during a public event at the TechWorks of Gaston County building on Ervin Street in Belmont. TechWorks, which will become a business incubator and technology resource center when it is completed in the coming months, became the catalyst to bring Open Broadband to Belmont when it partnered with the company to install the wireless broadband at its own facility.

“With TechWorks and with Open Broadband, we’re going to be able to provide the high-speed internet that entrepreneurs really need to come to Belmont and take advantage of all the other amenities we have and to create great businesses,” said Ted Hall, president of the Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce, which is headquartered in Belmont.

Open Broadband will also provide an alternative high-speed internet option for residents and businesses in Belmont, who can opt to have the company install a wireless receiver at their home or business for subscriptions comparable to other internet service providers, such as AT&T and Spectrum.

Open Broadband officials say their product’s benefit over other providers is that symmetrical speeds are offered from 25 megabytes per second to 1 gigabit, pricing plans start below $30 a month, upload speeds are much faster than cable or DSL, there are no contracts, usage caps, overage charges or speed throttling, and customer service is based in North Carolina.

The system works through fiber optic cable that is installed at a host location, such as the TechWorks building. The microwave dish is powered by the fiber optic cable and can send the internet signal out to the receivers installed at residences, businesses and other locations throughout the community.

Kent Winrich, chief technology officer at Open Broadband, says it’s comparable to or better than competing services, and that it’s faster to deploy because the signal can be sent out wirelessly, rather than relying on running cable to each individual location it services.

“We’re trying to shake up the bandwidth community and provide an option to those that just have maybe just one option, and maybe that option is very poor,” Winrich said. “We’re going to set up very high-speed microwave dishes and then we’ve selected a number of locations that are going to work to start spreading out through the community.”

Open Broadband has already led similar projects in Wayne, Stanly and Alexander counties. The company is in talks to install its wireless broadband system with other municipalities in Gaston County.

You can reach Eric

Wildstein at 704-869-1828 or Twitter.com/

TheGazetteEric.

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