Miami Beach is scrapping its free public Wi-Fi system. But the bigger news to many Beach residents is likely that the city actually had a free public Wi-Fi system to begin with. It does. It's just terrible.
The City of Miami Beach Commission voted in fall 2013 to stop funding the project beginning the 2014 fiscal year, and the network is scheduled to go dead May 1. Instead, the city will get a new, faster, and stronger system at municipal facilities throughout Miami Beach: It's already installed at several sites, including city hall, the former 777 Building, the Scott Rakow Youth Center, and the North Shore Youth Center.
The current system, apparently, will be difficult to log onto for the rest of April.
But for Beach residents and visitors who've tried to use it, it's hard to imagine it could get much worse: Ever since Miami Beach commissioners approved a $5 million contract for the service in 2006, the Wi-Fi network has been plagued with problems.
Ninety-five percent of the city was supposed to be covered by 2007, but that didn't happen because of squabbling with FPL and the Florida Department of Transportation over wiring. When the internet was finally unveiled more than three years later, in 2010, service was notoriously spotty, with viable connections at some hot spots like Lincoln Road but not so much anywhere else, like residents' homes.
Still, city officials swear the new system will actually work and that Beach-wide Wi-Fi is still a goal worth fighting for.
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"It's absolutely a great idea," Commissioner Michael Gongora told New Times in 2010, "though I know many residents are still waiting for it to be fully operational."
Five years later, they're still waiting.
"Nice," Commissioner Ed Tobin told New Times when he was asked about the new Wi-Fi. Tobin said he wasn't aware of the changes, although he did have another gripe with city technology.
"We're always sort of complaining that the website is very difficult to navigate," he said. "I don't know what they're doing."