Seeking to provide local technophiles with faster and easier Internet access, AT&T on Wednesday launched a "hotzone" initiative in the heart of downtown Palo Alto.
The initiative, known as "AT&T Wi-Fi Hotzone," essentially drapes a busy section of University Avenue, between Cowper and Bryant streets, in what the company calls a "fast and reliable" Wi-Fi network. AT&T customers with qualifying plans get unlimited access to AT&T hotzones at no additional cost, the company announced.
The new hotzone is the latest effort by AT&T to increase its local presence. The company had recently installed new Wi-Fi antennas at Hotel President on University Avenue, despite protests from a group of building residents. The company is also plans to put up a network of antennas around existing utility poles -- measures the company says are necessary to accommodate the city's limited capacity and insatiable appetite for Internet service.
AT&T has also recently partnered with Stanford University to provide Wi-Fi service at nine athletic facilities on campus. Ken McNeely, president of AT&T's California operation, said in a statement that the company's initiatives aim to address an increase in connectivity and mobile data use across the company's networks.
"We're focused on increasing our coverage and enhancing the customer experience in the Palo Alto area, and we are excited to continue efforts with the launch of our second Wi-Fi hotzone in the past year for AT&T customers in California," McNeely said.
Though the company's efforts have angered a small but vocal sector of the community, particularly in those areas where AT&T proposed to put up new antennas, city officials have been generally enthusiastic about the company's efforts to improve Internet service around town. Mayor Sid Espinosa said the city appreciates AT&T's investment in the Palo Alto community.
"As the center of technology and innovation, Palo Alto is proud to be one of the first cities in the country to have a Wi-Fi hotzone deployed in its downtown corridor," Espinosa said in a statement.
Paula Sandas, CEO of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce agreed and said her organization "applauds AT&T's expansion of Wi-Fi coverage in Palo Alto."
"Wireless connectivity in today's business is a requirement, not a luxury," Sandas said in a statement. "Our businesses depend on reliable wireless connectivity for their day-to-day operations."