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Free Wi-Fi planned for downtown Buffalo

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Free Wi-Fi is coming to downtown Buffalo this summer. The city announced it's teaming with M&T Bank and Univeristy at Buffalo to create a new network called 'Buffalo Connects'.  M&T is footing the $650,000 bill to create more than 30-hotspots points along Main Street from North Street down to Canalside and to the Erie Basin Marina.  

Mayor Byron Brown was joined by UB and M&T leaders during a news conference Tuesday at his City Hall office.

M&T Bank Chairman and CEO Robert Wilmers said it's a great thing to do for the citizens of Buffalo.

"We have 58,000 people that work downtown. We have about a million people who visit Buffalo, over the course of the year downtown, and it just seemed like the right thing to do," said Wilmers.

Individual hotspots could range about 250-feet allowing residents and visitors to log on to their mobile devices for on-line connections.  M T  Chief Technology Officers Julieta Ross said they've been testing hotspots ranges along Main Street.

"Each device will give us 250-feet of connectivity. I have to tell you, we did a pilot a couple of days ago and we exceeded expectations, so we were able to go 500 feet," said Ross. 

The free wireless service should go live by this summer. More pilot testing will be conducted in May.

As the University continues building a brand new medical school downtown, UB President Satish Tripathi called it a 'fascinating' start for a city that is moving forward.

“As a natural extension of our university’s service mission, UB has been a leader in developing our regional fiber network which, in turn, helps to advance the mission of our area colleges and public institutions that reside in the City of Buffalo,” said Tripathi. 

Buffalo Common Council members have been in recent talks about expanding broadband in the city. The Mayor said this could be a could measure for adding more in the city.

"We are certainly going to be looking at the success of this project, how it works, as a springboard to perhaps extend to other areas of the city," said Mayor Brown.