The Buncombe County free wireless connection that once covered much of downtown hasn’t worked for most of a year, and due to the county’s budget crunch, there are no plans to repair it in the near future, county staff confirmed today.
Beginning in March of last year, “parts of the wireless system went down and we’d get some of them back up, but they’d go down again,” Glen Hughes, the county’s technology services director, tells Xpress. “The whole system needed to be redesigned and that’s just not been funded. With the economy like it is, that’s just not been the highest priority.”
Asked if there are any plans to repair the network, Hughes says, “We will always try to keep it in what we’d like to do, but there are no plans at the moment.”
The county began offering Free WiFi in July 2005, proclaimed at the time that “the Buncombe County Commissioners are proud to announce wireless access to the internet is available to you at no cost.” Service was later expanded to cover much of downtown, though signal strength varied. Just under four years later, with little fanfare, Buncombe Free WiFi was gone.
One of the reasons repairing the network isn’t a top priority, Hughes notes, is because the wireless situation has changed. “When this began we didn’t have much wi-fi downtown at all; that’s changed,” Hughes says. “A lot of places offer free wi-fi and a lot of people can access it, or they can get online through their phones. It [repairing the wireless network] isn’t as necessary as it once was, so it’s fallen from the high priority list.”
In the meantime, some locals are hoping to convince Google to bring one of its proposed ultra-fast broadband networks to the city.
—David Forbes, staff writer