Gateway Goes Wireless

June 9, 2006
Assemblyman Robin Schimminger was joined today by North Tonawanda Mayor Larry Soos, Tonawanda Mayor Ron Pilozzi, Erie County Industrial Development Agency executive director Charles Webb, Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas executive director Paul Flach, and Tonawandas Gateway Harbor Inc. president Linda Foels for a demonstration of the new “Wi-Fi” wireless Internet zone at Gateway Harbor.

“Visitors to Gateway Harbor and residents, shoppers and business people on Webster Street in North Tonawanda and on Main Street in Tonawanda can now ‘surf the Net’ with wireless Web-enabled laptops and handhelds,” said Assemblyman Schimminger. “And boaters who tie up in Gateway Harbor and other visitors to our Erie Canal waterfront can log onto a Gateway Harbor home page and see what attractions and events the Twin Cities have to offer.”

Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, computer networking technology allows individuals to use computers and other devices to send and receive Internet data via a wireless network. A number of business districts, tourism destinations and even retail establishments, like coffee shops, restaurants, computer/technology stores and shopping malls, have installed wireless networks with free access points so individuals with Wi-Fi-capable laptop computers or PDAs can connect to the Internet wirelessly while at these locations. Schimminger’s $4,600 state legislative grant paid for acquiring and installing the needed antennae and related equipment.

Schimminger was approached last summer by BuffaloWiFi.org – an initiative of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, InfoTech Niagara, and the Verizon Foundation which provides free wireless Internet access in public spaces in the Buffalo Niagara region – about expanding Wi-Fi to the Tonawandas. The Assemblyman then reached out to the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas to ensure that development efforts involving Gateway Harbor and the cities’ downtown business districts would benefit from the innovative service.

The Gateway Harbor Wi-Fi hot zone, which is being sponsored and hosted by Wizard Communication Systems Inc. of Tonawanda, will convey information on events and attractions at Gateway Harbor Park and elsewhere in the Twin Cities. Plans also call for it to include links to Web sites for the Chamber of Commerce, the City of North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda. Area businesses and organizations can purchase advertising space on the site, as well. Equipment and installation has been supplied by Thinwires LLC and EscapeWire Solutions LLC.

Giving the demonstration was a much more technically oriented group who helped get the Wi-Fi hot zone up and running: Les Hoffman of BuffaloWiFi.org, James Weber of Wizard Communication Systems, Michael Kasprzyk of Thinwires, and Christine Plowucha of InfoTech Niagara. In addition, Teddie Granville of Conbrio Design unveiled a new logo his firm developed for the BuffaloWiFi initiative.

Other BuffaloWiFi.org locations include the Buffalo Zoo, City Hall/Niagara Square, the Erie Basin Marina, Lafayette Square and the Theatre District in Buffalo, the Lancaster downtown business district and downtown Niagara Falls, New York. Other area locations soon to come on line include business districts in Hamburg, Lewiston, Wilson Harbor and Youngstown.

“The Tonawandas will be part of a regional network of Wi-Fi hot spots that visitors and local residents alike can tap into for information on events and attractions. From now on, anyone on land or ‘sea’ who has a portable computer that’s wireless-enabled can enjoy Gateway Harbor and its vicinity while being ‘connected’ at the same time,” said Schimminger.