Free Wi-Fi To End In Downtown Spokane

SPOKANE — In an effort to keep Spokane’s Hot Zone up and running, users will soon be charged for accessing the wi-fi system on their laptops.

Currently, downtown’s hot zone streches more than 100 city blocks. But keeping it running costs money. That’s why the company supporting the network says it will have to charge a small fee to keep the network up.

“It’s very nice to be able to hook up to a free internet service and be able to get your information real quick, free of charge,” says user Lee French.

If one logs onto Spokane’s downtown Hot Zone, they get wireless internet access for free. But not for long.

“I think it’s kind of crazy,” says Janessa Todd, another Hot Zone user, “cause I thought their whole idea was to draw people downtown and now it would kind of push them away.”

Starting in the next month or two, the company that administers the free network plans to charge users after the first 30 minutes. That doesn’t sit well with everyone.

“I’m a college student. We want to go to places where we don’t have to pay for internet, where it’s easily accessible and fast,” says Nicole Bryson.

But OneEighty Networks says charging for the hot zone will help offset costs for maintaining equipment, customer service, and internet access.

“There will be a daily rate, a weekly rate, and then of course a monthly rate,” says Derrick Green with OneEighty Networks. “We’re talking about fees that are under $10 a month.”

Four years ago, OneEighty partnered with the city of Spokane and other downtown businesses. Now, the company and the city are the only ones left to run the Hot Zone and that gets expensive.

“It’s been in place for over four years and the intention was to bill for it after a certain amount of usage,” Green says.

It’s a bill that some hot zone users aren’t too eager to have to pay.

“I’m very disappointed,” Bryson says. “I don’t want to pay for internet. Parking is already outrageous, gas is outrageous. I don’t think we need one more thing to worry about paying for.

OneEighty Networks hopes to start charging users in the next 30-60 days. It won’t charge police and emergency workers that use the Hot Zone. The city of Spokane says events like Bloomsday and Hoopfest will also be exempt.