Riders and pedestrians along the streetcar route will enjoy some free outdoor Wi-Fi, built and operated by Sprint.
Open the settings on any Wi-Fi-enabled cellphone or tablet and look for KCFreePublicWi-Fi to gain access to the online world.
Sprint Wi-Fi, as it is dubbed, already is running along most of the 2.2-mile KC streetcar route. It also is available in the outside areas of the River Market area, Kansas City Power & Light District and Crossroads Arts District.
This is outside coverage and not intended to reach inside shops, restaurants and other buildings along the route, though some of them offer free Wi-Fi to customers.
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Crews still are stretching the Sprint Wi-Fi coverage south to the Union Station area. Testing also is underway to bring free Sprint Wi-Fi onboard the moving streetcars themselves perhaps in a few weeks.
“We’re working on that as phase two,” said Tom Gerend, executive director of the KC Streetcar.
Gerend said the vehicles have computers and wiring systems that Wi-Fi needs “to integrate with and sort of respect.” The city is working with the vehicle manufacturers to sort out and test the onboard connection.
Free Wi-Fi plays a central role in making Kansas City more connected and vibrant. The network also is key to the city’s emerging Smart City initiative that combines efforts of Sprint, the city and Cisco Systems.
“For us, it’s how do we make Kansas City this bustling economic hub for the Midwest,” said Tim Donahue, Sprint’s president for Missouri and Kansas.
The free Wi-Fi allows local residents, workers from the suburbs and visitors from outside the area to find online information about the venues along the streetcar route, as well as anything else on the Internet.
Sprint is spending between $5 million and $7 million on the Wi-Fi operation through five years and will advertise along the route to promote it.
The Wi-Fi network will operate as three separate segments.
KCFreePublicWi-Fi access begins at a landing page operated by Sprint’s Pinsight Media. It highlights local events, poses a poll question, posts a weather report and allows the city to interact with users.
Sprint customers will have access to another segment of the same network through Free Sprint Wi-Fi that may give them better service in big crowds at KCLive, for example.
These open segments are about improving the quality of life through a connected life for those who work, live, play or visit the route and covered outdoor venues.
Kansas City gets the third segment, which will pop up as a locked network called KCMO IOT, for the city’s Internet of Things. This is where the interactive kiosks, the smart lighting systems and other parts of the Smart City initiative will communicate.
“That infrastructure is the start of a smart city and all the different things the city will ultimately build and do as the Internet of Things evolves,” said Kaila Schmidt, machine-to-machine marketing manager at Sprint.