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UB, partners launch free Wi-Fi service in downtown Buffalo

Mayor Bryon Brown (second from right) is joined by (from left) NFTA Executive Director Kimberley Merkel, M&T Bank Chairman and CEO Robert G. Wilmers and UB President Satish Tripathi as he sends the first tweet using Buffalo Connect. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

JULIA SHANAHAN

Published July 16, 2015

Buffalo Connect — the new outdoor, public Wi-Fi network running along Main Street in downtown Buffalo and into Canalside — is now available for use by residents, employees and visitors.

The new service — the result of a partnership between UB, M&T Bank, the city of Buffalo and 16 other public- and private-sector institutions — was launched on Tuesday by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, M&T Bank Chairman and CEO Robert G. Wilmers and UB President Satish Tripathi.

M&T, with 3,300 employees working downtown, led the effort to engineer, purchase and install the system.

UB, which already has a major presence downtown on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and is building a new home for its medical school on the Main Street corridor, provided fiber assets and expertise in network engineering design and management. UB students also helped design the new logo and digital experience for Buffalo Connect.

The network operates through more than 30 “hot spot” access points running along Main Street. The access points, which have a range of approximately 250 feet, have been installed and are now operating from the Theater District through Canalside and Erie Basin Marina. Additional access points are being installed to extend the network to North Street on the doorstep of the growing Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The public network will allow downtown residents, workers and visitors another way to visit websites, use social media and even stream video. As with all public Wi-Fi networks, information transmitted via Buffalo Connect is not encrypted, and should not be used to convey private information like Social Security numbers or credit card numbers. 

“If downtown Buffalo is going to be a thriving engine of opportunity for all city residents, we must find ways to support the entrepreneurs who are driving technological advances and creating jobs,” Brown said in remarks at the formal unveiling ceremony. “By providing city residents, members of the business community and visitors with free public Wi-Fi, we will continue to attract more people and business to downtown Main Street, while making targeted investments to improve our city’s wireless infrastructure.”

Wilmers noted that with new residents, employers, employees, visitors and new and redeveloped buildings seemingly coming to downtown Buffalo every day, “Buffalo Connect will make downtown Buffalo an easier place to stay connected. And that’s good for our city and for the people who live, work and visit here,” he said.

This is a great time to be in Buffalo, Tripathi added, “whether you are working here, studying here or coming to visit and enjoy all our great city has to offer. UB is excited to partner in the expansion of our region’s Wi-Fi capabilities to better serve the people in our downtown corridor each day.”

“This network will be a terrific asset to our community, and we are proud that we can lend our leadership and expertise — including the involvement of our student engineers and artists — to make this regional fiber network a reality,” he said.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and National Grid also are partners in the project, providing locations and power for some of the access points to make sure continuous coverage is provided along Main Street.