Free Wifi for Fordham Road

Fordham’s Business Improvement District (BID) has netted an online upgrade.

The city announced plans to install free Wi Fi access starting this December in the buzzing commercial stretch of East Fordham Road from Grand Concourse to Arthur Avenue.

Internet hubs will be installed along the shopping district in phases over the next three years, but a precise timeframe is not yet in place, said Wilma Alonso, executive director of the BID.

The program will be set up in a series of online access points sponsored by the Spanish company Gowex, which already hosts 1,953 hotspots in New York and recently teamed up with San Francisco to install 450 “smart zones” in the Golden Gate City.

The added Wi Fi connectivity is also coming to downtown Brooklyn, Manhattan’s Flatiron District, Queens’ Long Island City and to Staten Island’s St. George’s shopping district, announced Mayor Bloomberg Monday, September 30 at a press conference at Brooklyn’s Metrotech building.

The total cost of the project is $4.6 million, with the city footing $900,000 and rest shouldered by private company sponsors.

The first wave of Bronx Wi Fi access zones is not yet set in stone, said Alonso, but BID shoppers or students trickling down from nearby Fordham University will be able to get online both outside and in local businesses, who will have a chance to opt into the service, Alonso said.

“We’re happy that through the mayor’s office we can tap into something like this,” Alonso said. “It’s very important for our businesses to have internet connectivity.”

Mayor Bloomberg heralded the initiative as a boon to would-be internet entrepreneurs.

“If New York City is going remain competitive in the global economy, we must find ways to support the entrepreneurs who are driving technological advances and creating jobs,” he said.

But the Fordham BID is not exactly Silicon Valley. The 300 shops that line the district run the gauntlet from 99 cent shops to upscale jewelry stores, and many do not currently even have a website, Alonso said.

Shops in the BID will be able to upload coupons onto a BID homepage as a marketing tool, she said.

“The challenge will be to engage the small businesses, but as soon as they know how easy it will be, they will be inclined to participate,” Alonso said.

Gowex will use city property such as bus stops to house the networks, said Alonso, and will also install devices known as repeaters that magnify the Wi Fi signals.

The city’s contract with Gowex runs for three years, she said, during which time she hopes that smartphone-bearing visitors will be able to check out the latest deals in BID shops on their devices.

“Who doesn’t walk around with a phone with internet these days?” she said. “ To walk down a commercial district and be connected and interacting with the businesses will be exciting.”

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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