As Downtown Columbia continues to develop, one local business anticipated the need to keep visitors connected, online that is. Columbia Power & Water Systems (CPWS)worked with Columbia's Main Street Board and Maury County to provide free Internet access to visitors beginning in 2014.
The pilot program has been such a success that the free service is still offered today. Visitors to downtown can simply open the WiFi setting on their iPhone or Smartphone and choose the CPWS WiFi network.Voila! Selfies and emails are sent within seconds at no data charge to the user. Patrons looking to eat, stay and play longer downtown can enjoy everything the Internet has to offer on their laptops or handheld electronic devices.
Kristi Martin, President of the Main Street Board, says, “Many downtown communities are offering free wifi, and when it came time to implement in Columbia, CPWS was the first choice."
CPWS Executive Director Wes Kelley understood the possibilities open to regional users and tourists enjoying outdoor areas to log into personal accounts. "CPWS’ free WiFi is another measure we can take to be a user-friendly downtown, especially as Columbia and Maury County continue to grow,” he explains.
The average user checks their phone more than 100 times a day, logging into social media apps, searching directions and checking email. Shoppers and visitors headed downtown can locate restaurants, download menus and upload photos at lightning speeds using CPWS’ new 50Mbps and 75Mbps connectivity, all without depleting their personal data accounts.
The recent growth of festivals and businesses downtown has spurred local organizations, like the Maury County Visitors Bureau (MCVB), to think not just about what events to offer tourists, but also to look at how the downtown area presents itself to the community and outsiders.
Becky Leifheit, Assistant Director at the MCVB says, “I believe the free public WiFi is very beneficial to visitors and residents that are looking for an event, restaurants and unique shopping in downtown Columbia. A WiFi zone can also send the message that an area is forward thinking and welcomes change.”
The economic growth of downtown has also played a role in the decision to implement a free WiFi zone. In the past four years, downtown has become a desirable area for new businesses to open, and a place for established businesses to relocate.
Fifteen locally owned businesses have opened their doors on Columbia’s Square since 2011, which encourages Maury County Alliance President Wil Evans. “Having free WiFi available to patrons can be a real boom for any downtown as it can encourage patrons to stay longer, visit more establishments and, ultimately, spend more money. It also provides a draw to professionals who may be having an offsite meeting on the square or a casual working lunch. This was definitely an innovative move by CPWS, and I am happy to see it here in Columbia,” says Evans.
People may not realize that CPWS is a public utility owned by the citizens of Columbia. It has served Maury County since 1939, and services such as the free downtown WiFi keep it relevant and in the forefront of businesses that have the county's wants and needs in mind.
With an eye to the future and a vision of Columbia's growth, CPWS expanded the utility company to include the development of the CPWS PowerNet, which provides cable television, high-speed Internet, telephone, and commercial data services to homes and businesses in the city of Columbia.
Recent upgrades include an improved fiber network, more HD channels, faster Internet speeds, a TV Everywhere service that lets you watch TV channels on your electronic devices, and advanced telephone services. CPWS remains focused on growing its Internet service because its customers are increasingly interested in their Internet more than cable TV.
Kelley adds, "We wanted to offer a competitively priced broadband service for residents and businesses at different levels, based on need and budget. We also have packages that provide discounts for Internet and cable."
With its progressive vision and goal to provide services at reasonable rates, it is a win-win for visitors to our downtown area, as well as for the residents and businesses of Maury County.
So next time you are in downtown Columbia, remember that you can check your email, favorite app or send out that selfie to your friends ... for free, thanks to CPWS!
To find out more about CPWS's PowerNet and cable plans visit their website by clickingHERE.
* This post brought to you by Columbia Power and Water Services