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Free WiFi coming to Fireman’s Field in Purcellville as town looks to expand internet capabilities

Purcellville is working to expand its broadband internet capabilities -- and the first step may be coming to Fireman’s Field by July.

“Purcellville will not be a spectator in the Internet of Things era and broadband economy,” Vice Mayor Karen Jimmerson said in a statement co-written with Councilman Nedim Ogelman.

Jimmerson and Ogelman, along with Information Technology Director Shannon Bohince, have been investigating various options to bring free WiFi to public areas and more reliable internet access to homes across Purcellville. They discussed their latest findings during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

In the past, Purcellville had considered spending millions to lay fiber optic cables across town, but new advances in wireless technology will soon compete with traditional internet providers.

“Large national wireless carriers have recently announced that they have achieved over 1GB per second in their most recent 5G tests,” Jimmerson said. “Even if they only delivered half or a fourth of that speed, it would still be better than most residents and businesses in Purcellville have available to them today.”

Bush Tabernacle already has WiFi, and Bohince wants to expand this to Fireman’s Field by adding several WiFi boxes, unobtrusively attached to the sides of buildings or to existing telephone poles. The project is expected to cost between $5,000 and $10,000 and should be running by the July 15 Wine and Food Festival.

“When people are in large concentrations with cell phones, they tend to max out the system,” Jimmerson said. “It’s also good for people on limited data plans.”

Next, Bohince would like to add an unobtrusive WiFi pole near the train station, providing free internet access to public spaces downtown. Eventually—as early as 2019—the town could add a 75-foot cell tower at the wastewater treatment plant. The tower would cost between $200,000 and $400,000, depending on if the town disguises it with tree branches.

The cost would be recouped as the town would rent the tower out. Wireless internet providers already rent space on the water tower, and it is quickly running out of room. The additional and larger tower would ease the debt burden for Purcellville’s sewer and water facilities.

Councilman Ryan Cool, who lives in the Hirst Farm neighborhood, acknowledged that he and his neighbors often encounter dead zones. This is not only inconvenient—it’s bad for home businesses and emergency situations.

“It’s a safety issue on the south side of town,” Cool said. “We can’t be frozen in time … We have to be part of it.”

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