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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 26, 2019 4 weeks ago

On the edge: Neighborhood gets connected thanks to collaboration

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A tech entrepreneur gets creative in his quest to bridge a digital divide.

Free, open-access public Wi-Fi is now available throughout the EDGE District, one of downtown St. Petersburg’s fastest-growing neighborhoods. The upgrade stems from a collaboration among GoZone WiFi, hardware supplier Cambium Networks and the EDGE Business District Association, along with support from sponsors UPC Insurance and Goldman Wetzel Law Firm.

GoZone, headquartered in the EDGE District, is run by serial tech entrepreneur Todd Myers, who says he’s long been vexed by the “digital divide” that limits the availability of fast, free, easily accessible wireless internet service in public areas. "There’s a huge demand for good public Wi-Fi hotspots," Myers says. "But it can be very difficult to use those hotspots.”

Free Wi-Fi connections in places like airports and coffee shops often require a user to create an account or input a password. GoZone’s EDGE District service, up and running since mid-June, doesn’t do that, though users are given the option to enter their email address if they’d like to receive news and updates from the EDGE Business District Association.

“It’s not a profit center for us, at all,” Myers says. GoZone WiFi, he explains, makes money by providing wireless internet usage data analytics to businesses, which then use that information for marketing and advertising purposes. “We supply the platform and our core revenue stream comes from licensing the platform, just like Microsoft.”

Sponsors of the service receive digital advertising on the network’s login page, landing page and emails for users who opt in with their email addresses. Meanwhile, the EDGE Business District Association can view vital statistics, such as how many users have connected and at what times they connected. For example, Myers says, the network saw a 70% surge in connections during St. Pete Pride festivities on the weekend of June 22-23.

“I can’t think of a better way to begin to bridge the digital divide in the Sunshine City,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman states in a news release about the service. “Bringing free Wi-Fi to the heart of our city is a creative, innovative way to help everyone connect in new and exciting ways.”

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