Seattle Center visitors now enjoy fast, free Wi-Fi

Mayor Ed Murray today unveiled a new free Wi-Fi service at Seattle Center. The service, which serves tens of thousands of people simultaneously, was developed in partnership with Microsoft.

“This is another step forward in our work to seek out public-private partnerships to improve Internet access in Seattle,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “More than 12 million people visit Seattle Center each year, and now they will enjoy fast, free broadband on their devices. This pilot program tests new technology that we may be able to deploy to other neighborhoods in the city.”

Seattle Center is offering two Bumbershoot passes to a user chosen at random who shares how they will use the faster service on the Seattle Center Twitter feed.

The TV white space technology developed by Microsoft Research takes advantage of unused television channels. Television signals travel over longer distances and better penetrate walls and other obstacles, powerfully connecting access points throughout Seattle Center. The new system nearly quadruples the number of access points available to users.

“The most obvious advantages of this technology are speed and performance,” said Dayne Sampson, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Engineering. “What will be exciting for those attending big events such as Bumbershoot is that this technology can handle more than 25,000 users at a time. That’s a distinct difference from the free Wi-Fi often found in public places.”

Previous Wi-Fi network speeds at Seattle Center supported email and basic web browsing, but bogged down when too many people used the system at the same time. The new system enables users to browse at speeds more than 5,000 times faster than the old system, enabling visitors to make Skype calls, back-up photos, and connect with events and vendors at Seattle Center. Microsoft brought in a digital fiber line capable of transmitting multiple gigabits per second.

“At Seattle Center, our purpose is to delight and inspire the human spirit, and this remarkable new Wi-Fi system will definitely serve to enrich the visitor experience,” said Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams.

The service has a new landing page with tips about how to enjoy Seattle Center and the city. Users can download a Microsoft Wi-Fi app that allows regular visitors to automatically connect to the platform at the highest possible speed.

“The new technology places Seattle at the forefront of fast, convenient, and accessible public broadband. We are grateful for Microsoft’s efforts to pilot the technology in Seattle,” said Michael Mattmiller, Seattle’s Chief Technology Officer.

In August, Mayor Murray announced his three-point plan for more and better broadband service in Seattle:

· reduce regulatory barriers to attracting high-speed Internet providers
· launch new public/private partnerships like the Seattle Center initiative with Microsoft
· explore the feasibility of municipal broadband service

Learn more about the new Wi-Fi at Seattle Center at www.seattlecenter.com/microsoftwifi.

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