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Kent State and the City of Kent Bring Outdoor Wireless Access to Lester A. Lefton Esplanade

Posted Apr. 7, 2014
enter photo description
Kent State University students stop to talk along the
Lester A. Lefton Esplanade. Two sections of the Esplanade
will offer high-speed wireless Internet beginning this month.

Kent State University students, employees and visitors will be able to access high-speed wireless Internet on two sections of the Lester A. Lefton Esplanade beginning this month.

Jason Wearley, Kent State's executive director of infrastructure and division architect for information services, says outside Wi-Fi access is another step to connecting downtown Kent to the university.

“People want to sit on park benches in the green spaces and be on our wireless,” Wearley says. “That’s why this next project is to work with the new Esplanade, connecting it to downtown and growing our wireless profile.”

Wireless access points will cover the section of the Esplanade from Franklin Hall to Haymaker Boulevard, as well as the section from the Liquid Crystal Institute to the Kent Student Center. Wi-Fi access already is available on the Student Green in the Risman Plaza.

Users will be able to access the Wi-Fi through their normal FlashZone log-in names and passwords or as a Kent State guest.

To cover the Esplanade near downtown, the university will install two Wi-Fi points on light poles on Haymaker.

Kent City Manager Dave Ruller says the Wi-Fi program is part of the overall downtown revitalization.

“We put a lot of thought into the sorts of lifestyle amenities that attract and engage people, and technology quickly rose to the top of the list,” Ruller says. “We want to make technology as ubiquitous in the public realm in Kent as it is in our private lives.”

Ruller says collaborating with Kent State helps alleviate some of City Council’s budget concerns.

“We've looked at open Wi-Fi options previously, but the expense was always a challenge,” Ruller says. “It is still a challenge, but the partnership with Kent State has created opportunities to gradually expand access without breaking the budget.”

Wearley says the increased wireless access will help users save money in their own budgets as well.

“Between classes downtown, they want to open a laptop, taking advantage of our network,” Wearley says. “This gives them higher speeds and offsets any data costs they would use. If you’re on a limited data plan, you want to be on our wireless so you’re not paying for that data usage.”

Wearley says Kent State currently has 3,000 wireless access points on campus, serving more than 16,000 concurrent devices at any given time. The Wi-Fi serves more than 45,000 unique devices a week.

Ruller says the Wi-Fi access project emphasizes the importance of public space downtown. 

“Our goal wasn't simply constructing new buildings for shopping and eating,” Ruller says. “It was about creating an active public space that would attract students, residents and visitors to interact with one another and our community in new ways, discovering something new about themselves and Kent on each visit.”