The company that serves up the free connection for Spokane’s downtown Wi-Fi “HotZone” has begun charging for extended use of the service.
Introduced last year, the 100-square-block Spokane HotZone allows wireless-enabled computers full access to the Internet. Since June, it’s allowed that access for free.
Starting this week, network provider OneEighty Networks has begun charging those who go beyond two hours of use per day.
Ever since the launch of the HotZone, OneEighty has said it eventually would charge for some of its use to recoup costs.
After the first two hours of use each day, the company charges $6.95 for the rest of a day’s use or $49.95 for a month, said OneEighty Networks President Chad Skidmore.
Anyone using the HotZone for under two hours a day would not have to pay those fees. People who use it, however, are asked to register their names and general information even if they aren’t planning to exceed two hours of use, Skidmore noted.
Online payments for the HotZone are by credit card and are protected by Web-encryption security, he said.
The downtown network is the collaboration of several area high-tech companies, the Downtown Spokane Partnership and the City of Spokane.
The Wi-Fi panels and base stations are provided by Spokane Valley company Vivato. OneEighty Networks provides the network connection and manages all user accounts.
Recent activity shows that at any given time, about 10 users are logged on to the network, Skidmore said.
“We’ve also seen a lot of transient activity, people who say they’re from the 206 area code, which means they’re people traveling through the city,” he added.
Skidmore said the company has added safeguards that keep users from “spoofing,” or creating bogus accounts or user identifications each time they use up two hours of time.
The city has its own separate municipal network within the HotZone. City officials plan to use it for a variety of public safety, utility and transportation-related uses. Police and fire department workers are already using that municipal network.