Marion to Get Free WiFi Downtown

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By WSIL Reporter

MARION -- Downtown Marion is getting a little more tech-friendly. An area approximately 11 blocks in size will soon be a free, public internet hotspot.


These days, internet access plays an important role in infrastructure. That's why Marion is joining a handful of other communities to offer free WiFi downtown.


"I know a lot of people around here that don't have it because they can't afford it and would like to have it," says Robert Hudson.


Hudson lives on a fixed income and feels forced into having internet service in an era when banking and paying bills is done online. He says free WiFi will make a big difference.


"It's going to get to the point where if you're not online you can't do anything," he says.


The new WiFi network will also cover most downtown businesses.


Mary Baker, manager at The Vault Cafe, thinks it will be a big draw for customers looking to do business over lunch, but it could be a double-edged sword.


"If people hang out and take up tables and other people that actually eat lunch aren't able to get in," she says. "We're hoping that won't be an issue."


City officials insist it's a win-win.


"At least there are bodies in a chair, and maybe when they're done drinking their coffee they'll want a second cup," says Marion IT Director Terance Henry.


Many think free WiFi is vital to the future of Marion.


Commissioner Anthony Rinella says if this pilot program is a success, coverage could eventually be extended to other parts of the city.


"If you're going to be successful and grow our community how we want to, you're going to have to grow with the technology," he explains.


The free internet access does come with rules.


Henry says everyone will have to comply with their terms of agreement, and certain sites with adult content will be blocked.


"Every hour or less you may have to re-log back on," he says. "That will help break those who are trying to download movies or anything that they should not be doing."


An exact start date for the free network hasn't been set, but Marion officials hope to have it up and running later this month.
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