Montgomery aims to transform downtown into high-tech zone

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s capital city is launching free Wi-Fi in the central part of downtown.

It’s one of several planned upgrades involving technology, The Montgomery Advertiser reported . Other plans call for street cameras and a cellphone app designed to help people find parking. Also planned: an expanded fiber optic network; and 22,000 new light-emitting diode lights, commonly known as LED lights.

It’s all part of a broader effort to create a “Smart City Living Lab” in the city’s core, the Montgomery newspaper reported.

“Having something like downtown Wi-Fi, having well-lit streets, having safety cameras, different avenues like that make someone more apt to want to visit that area (or) reside in that area,” said Charisse Stokes, executive director of TechMGM, a collaborative effort of private and public entities seeking to build on the area’s tech resources. “But also, if you’re a business, it makes you want to set up shop there or expand. We’re not making a technology investment for just one category or individual.”

The free internet service was recently introduced along Commerce Street and Dexter Avenue. It’s paid for by the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

Alabama Power has been expanding its fiber optic network in the downtown area, from the MGMix internet exchange near the state Capitol building to the Riverfront. The company’s next project involves converting 22,000 street lights to LEDs, the newspaper reported.

“Beginning with a ‘smart’ corridor from the Capitol to the Riverfront, we are building a smart city from the ground up — using fiber and connectivity to integrate seamlessly into the existing environment while providing a platform for the deployment of any number of smart city solutions,” Chamber of Commerce Chairman Willie Durham said.

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