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PANGAEA’s Response to Recent WiFi Signage Concerns

Letter to the Editor,  submitted by Ron Walters, Executive Director of PANGAEA Internet

Published in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, Wednesday, December 10, 2014

To the editor:

I am writing to correct the Wi-Fi story that appeared on the Tryon Daily Bulletin front page on Nov. 26, 2014.

At the May 20, 2014 Tryon Town Council meeting, PANGAEA presented a proposal to install signage indicating free Wi-Fi availability and to designate five parking spaces on McCown Street as Wi-Fi hot spot parking. The motion was approved unanimously “to allow PANGAEA to use five parking spaces on McCown Street designated as PANGAEA Wi-Fi Hot Spot and signage subject to Town approval” (May 20, 2014 meeting minutes).

A detailed Signage Plan and Zoning Permit Application showing locations, design, and dimensions was presented to the town. Modifications were requested and the application was re-submitted. The application was approved by the town manager on Sept. 16, 2014.

That being said, PANGAEA is a long time community partner and we will gladly work with the town to address any concerns about the Wi-Fi signage. We are very excited about the number of people using the Wi-Fi parking spaces and the Tryon free Wi-Fi system since the signs went up.

There are three purposes of the free Wi-Fi signs:  1) informational (indicating the availability of free Wi-Fi), 2) safety (indicating a safe place to park to access the internet), and 3) support (indicating to contact PANGAEA with comments or service issues).  The signs are not intended to be advertising for PANGAEA Internet.

As background, PANGAEA Internet is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit company that has raised and spent nearly $4 million building a high-speed fiber optic Internet system in Polk and Rutherford Counties.  Many community leaders are serving or have served on our board of directors.  Our mission is to enhance the quality of life and economic development of our area by providing extremely reliable and fast internet service for education, government, health care and commercial businesses.

Every Tryon downtown development strategic discussion that I’ve heard has included the need for increased internet access. In 2014, we started a project to utilize our fiber network to provide free Wi-Fi in downtown areas.  The goal was to provide free Wi-Fi access to visitors (bring people downtown and keep them here) as well as provide a safe place for people to park and access the internet for texting, maps, web searches etc.

Therefore, in early 2014 PANGAEA deployed 12 access points throughout the Tryon downtown area and we are providing free Wi-Fi.  In fact, the free Wi-Fi bandwidth was recently tripled to 3 MB download and 1 MB upload. As the project is part of our community based mission, PANGAEA paid for 100 percent of the signs and sign installation as well as the Wi-Fi equipment and bandwidth/transport.

We welcome comments or suggestions on how we can continue to utilize our network to improve Tryon.