Biz Buzz: Free SureWest Wi-Fi could be sign of larger plans

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein
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Roseville still lacks a citywide Wi-Fi rig, but road warriors can take advantage of a free ’net hookup being tested by SureWest Communications – for the next six months, anyway. The high-speed wireless network is currently available at Douglas Boulevard’s Rocky Ridge Town Center (home of Borders) and common areas of The Preserve at Creekside apartment community near the Galleria. It’s all part of assessing the popularity of public and residential Wi-Fi nets and what users’ needs are, said Bill DeMuth, SureWest’s chief technology officer. “We’re interested in seeing usage habits and how many people are connecting, and we’re interested what type of devices people have around these hotspots,” added Eric Freund, SureWest’s director of business innovation and development. The trial might be just a taste of what’s to come. If successful, the company could launch multiple hot spots around the region, so subscribers are never far from getting online stock quotes or YouTube videos of the McCain Girls (though officials downplayed the possibility of a citywide Wi-Fi blanketing, at least for now). “We're looking at ways we can help our current Internet customers and how we expand their experience,” DeMuth said. It could also give SureWest entree into more multi-family developments, where residents are less likely to become fixed-line Internet customers because of higher turnover. So how’s it work? Simply launch your favorite Web browser and complete a registration form. You don’t have to be a SureWest subscriber, but those who are can use their existing user name and password. Security is handled behind the scenes, and officials promise faster connections than pay services like T-Mobile’s HotSpot. And tech support? “You won’t have to call up to get connected,” DeMuth promised. Read the full Biz Buzz column Wednesdays in The Press-Tribune. Got a tip for Biz Buzz? E-mail or call 774-7969.