KINGSTON — Someone wants you to have free Wi-Fi downtown. And no, you won’t be required to buy a latté.
Brian Moran of Banyan Telecom proposed the idea to the Port of Kingston Commission at its Oct. 28 meeting. His plan would quadruple the current free Wi-Fi coverage in Kingston provided by the Kitsap Public Utilities District.
“At the end of all the phases, this Wi-Fi system should encompass all of downtown Kingston,” Moran said.
Banyan would like to place two antennas atop the Port of Kingston administration building and another two on the roof of the Kingston Library. The antennas would face in different directions to provide coverage from The Grub Hut to parts of the marina.
In contrast, KPUD’s Wi-Fi provides a small bubble of free Wi-Fi around Kitsap Regional Library.
The marina also has a small Wi-Fi system.
“I’m interested, but I’d really like to see this replace our current Wi-Fi system,” Commissioner Walt Elliott said.
The Banyan system would allow 1,200 people to connect to the network at once.
Banyan would connect to KPUD’s fiber optic network, Moran said.
The system would be called www.kingstonwifi.com. Banyan operates a similar service in Port Orchard called www.portorchardwifi.com, which is currently in a “soft launch.”
Banyan would cover all construction and repair costs, while the port would pay to power the antennas which, according to Moran, are inexpensive.
“These antennas are half a watt, so you’re looking at a couple dollars a month,” Moran said.
Port commissioners were receptive to the idea but would like to see it expanded.
“There’s an abundance of multifamily housing up Pennsylvania [and] Illinois [avenues] … and it doesn’t look to me like this goes that far,” Commissioner Pete DeBoer said. “There’s a big concentration of population there and I think to do this public project it should include them.”
Commissioner Bruce MacIntyre shared DeBoer’s sentiments.
“Just speaking for myself, I like the idea. I’d like to see something like this go forward,” MacIntyre said. “It’d be great if we were somehow providing broad community service.”
One problem with the system as presented could be getting the signal to penetrate buildings, Moran said.
“The only real issue is the 5 gigahertz radio (signal) as far as penetrating inside buildings,” Moran said. “That’s why there may be a need or desire to put an additional antenna on (the Kingston Cove Yacht Club) to saturate inside of the buildings in the downtown corridor.”
Rather than charge users a fee, Banyan earns money through advertising. To connect to the service, users will first experience a portal page, which will ask them to login via email or social network. That page will have space for local advertising, such as a company logo.
Banyan will charge businesses a monthly fee to businesses to use the ad space.
DeBoer asked Moran if Banyan was prepared for legal action from businesses that have invested money in their own Internet infrastructure. Moran said Banyan would likely operate as a nonprofit to avoid litigation.
“In a legal sense, if we have to spin it off into a nonprofit, that’s what we’ll do,” Moran said. “And it’s already probably in the works.”
The port wants its contract to have provisions for continuity of service, in case Banyan were to fold, Elliott said.
The port will likely hear another presentation from Moran at its next meeting Nov. 10 at the Kingston Cove Yacht Club.