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Wireless McDuffie: Free Internet in downtown Thomson

The days of being plugged in are over for some in Thomson.

Wireless Internet services are now available and the possibilities have suddenly become endless.

The new service - called Wireless McDuffie - officially began in downtown Thomson on Tuesday afternoon, according to McDuffie County IT Director Kelly Evans.

"Offering wireless service will enable us to have the kind of a business center approach that we believe will attract more business to our downtown," Mrs. Evans said. "By having such a service, we've also extended to small businesses the capabilities of doing business outside their walls in Thomson."

The new wireless service will allow business people having breakfast or lunch to tap into the Internet on their laptop computers, if they so desire.

"This is not a business-class wireless service; it's a guest-class wireless service," Mrs. Evans said, adding that the main differences are speed and guaranteed availability.

It's all an attempt to bring Thomson and its business district more into the 21st Century, she added during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror.

Jimmy Lister, a network engineer with Progressive Communication, of Milledgeville, along with Johnny Crutchfield, a county employee, worked to install the equipment for the new wireless service most of Tuesday morning and into the early afternoon. By 3:30 p.m., the wireless service was up and running.

"What's so great about this service is that it cost absolutely nothing to do," Mrs. Evans said. "We simply renegotiated the cost of our access for the county Internet to make this possible."

As a result, access for the county Internet wireless service actually dropped by about 35 percent, she pointed out. It means an actual savings of about $3,600 to taxpayers, Mrs. Evans said.

"That's a big savings and we're gaining a great benefit from it at the same time," she added.

Acquiring wireless Internet services to downtown Thomson had been a targeted goal of Mrs. Evans and her staff since a survey, more than a year ago, indicated that people wanted such a service in this area. At the time, a survey was needed in an effort to obtain a BRIDGE Grant through the Georgia Tech, Tech/Smart Program.

About a year ago, that same group from Georgia Tech helped get Internet services to a number of residents in the Raysville Community of McDuffie County, Mrs. Evans said. Although wireless service is not available in that area, a number of homes along the Lincolnton Highway now have access to the Internet through AT & T.

"We've come a long way from where we used to be in Thomson and McDuffie County as far as technology goes," Mrs. Evans said.

She believes downtown Thomson now having access to wireless Internet marks the first of many steps to bringing additional technology to the area.

Web posted on Thursday, June 11, 2009

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