Green Cove Springs makes smart move by adding Wi-Fi at Spring Park

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – With the addition of free Wi-Fi at Spring Park, Green Cove Springs is quickly becoming a smart city.

“It’s a situation where we want to provide citizens free Wi-Fi while they’re out in the park,” said city of Green Cove Springs Network Administrator Angel Alicea. “Mom wants to look at her Facebook while she’s watching the kids; post some photos.”

Right now, there are five access points in the park.

“We’re going to expand,” Alicea said. “The plan is to provide Wi-Fi to the boats that are parked out there [offshore]. So basically, if you park your boat, you’ll get free Wi-Fi, and if you’re fishing out there, you can still get your emails and stuff. It’s coming; that’s phase two.”

The process began with planning in 2018 when the city council put the project in motion. Alicea began to research hardware vendors and design a deployment plan for the network. He eventually settled on Unify, who the manufacturer of the base station and access points throughout the park. Comcast provides the network connectivity.

“It’s gonna come in handy for when we have Food Truck Friday,” said Alicea. “We get like thousands of people here. So that’s going to be the big test – once this COVID-19 is over and we get our first concert in the park. I’ll be doing some testing and checking out the throughput and seeing how fast [the network runs] and checking out any latencies.”

A test of the network on Monday showed download speeds of 175 Mbps (megabits per second), with upload speeds of 23.7 Mbps. That speed is dependent on the mobile device and the number of users on the network at any given time sharing the bandwidth. Mondays in Spring Park are often less crowded as the pool is closed. “You’re only as fast as your slowest connection,” Alicea said.

The entire park is connected via fiber-optic network.

On arrival at the park, guests can see the network availability under the name SpringParkGuest. A user can select the network, press “connect” on their mobile device, and then “sign in.” They will then be taken to a splash page that has terms of use. Once the terms of use are agreed to, the user will be able to enjoy the wireless network.

The network is secured with a cloud-based Cisco Meraki firewall, which Alicea says has a more extensive content filtering system. The firewall will block adult content, and also Netflix, to avoid the streaming service bogging down the network by taking up bandwidth.

“Primarily, it’s gonna be family-friendly,” he said.

Willie McBride was visiting the park with his family while looking into possibly moving to Clay County. “Any technology that’s brought to this town is probably good because it goes along with the growth of the town,” McBride said. “The town itself is growing. So as they try to sell this town to anybody and everywhere because they want to be on the map. They want to be taken seriously. They want to be a place where young families can come and raise their kids. So you’re looking at growth, and any technology is probably good for this town.”

Phase two of the Wi-Fi installation and roll-out is currently in the planning stage. Alicea estimates it possibly being completed by spring or summer of 2021. “I see it; you park your boat out there, you can sit on your boat, sit on your laptop and whatnot and be able to get a connection,” he said.

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