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'Lily Pad' Hotspots Cover Cincinnati With Free Wi-Fi

More than 20 "pods," each with numerous hot-spots and still more access points, are already up and running. At least 55 more are slated to be online in the coming weeks.
For instance, although the Wi-Fi speeds peak at 5 Mbps, the Lily Pad speed degrades somewhat as additional users get online. Also, users are disconnected if their connection has been unused for more than 10 minutes.

Users need neither a user name nor a password to access the Lily Pad system -- they just need to go through a usage agreement page. Then they are free to view e-mails and surf the Web, unencumbered by pop-ups or banner ads. The system also filters viruses and spam.

"Lily Pad does not receive money from city, state, or federal governments," said Rybolt. "This is by design, as legislative efforts by the telecom industry have derailed efforts in other states and cities that have been using municipal funds to pay for Wi-Fi."

The project is an effort within a broader program called "Give Back Cincinnati," a non-profit organization with support also from the Cincinnati Regional Chamber of Commerce. "This is 100-percent volunteer," said Rybolt, who is an e-commerce businessman."(We use) a non-profit entity to identify and manage corporate and individual sponsorships.

"There's no need to light up an entire city block of commercial warehousing or a field of corn. Lily Pad is not citywide Wi-Fi. It's planting pods of access points in key social spaces, both indoor and outdoor."

"We could have hundreds of hotspots."