Buncombe Free WiFi no more

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


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7 thoughts on “Buncombe Free WiFi no more

  1. Michael Traister

    No public ice skating at the Civic Center anymore, no more free internet, the approval of the worst Urban Outfitters on the planet, a public transit system that is nearly impossible to figure out, no parking and a non-existent recycling program downtown. What is it that the city council does for us again?

  2. Asheville Dweller

    Michael the answer is wasting our tax money, and they are very good too. The transit is all jacked up but according to hip crowd as long they have bunnies on them its ok no matter how defunct it is.

  3. Jason

    I believe, as mentioned in the article, the WiFi falls under the county’s, not the city’s, responsibility.

  4. Gordon Smith

    I’m glad y’all are reading Mtn. Xpress. The city has no part to play in Buncombe County wireless service.

    AD, a transit master plan was completed last year, and we will be voting on implementation options this year. More frequent service on our main corridors as well as Sunday service will be added. The marketing program will both increase the number of choice riders and continue to distinguish AVL as an arts destination.

  5. Does anyone have an up-to-date list of internet service providers in Buncome County?

    I’m looking for an inclusive list,
    satellite, cable, dsl, 3g cel service, etc

  6. Michael

    Sorry Gordon. I realize that the City Council does a great job considering what they are dealt and that they do not control every downtown function but maybe the WiFi issue is something they should consider taking up if they have not already? Is it really that expensive to maintain? I disagree with the article and Mr. Hughes in that free WiFi is NOT readily available downtown (at least during non-business hours and on Lex. Ave.) and the comment “they can get online through their phones” is laughable. Is he serious and has he ever tried to actually conduct real internet business via his cellphone? It’s pretty frustrating and I say this as an owner of an iPhone. I moved here from Carrboro/Chapel Hill where the city DOES provide free WiFi AND a very comprehensive and free bus line. It’s easy to become spoiled and when things are taken away, easy to whine. Especially when high speed internet access runs about $50 a month and the alternatives are limited. Enough said and I will get off of my soapbox now…

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