Free WiFi service coming to downtown Las Vegas

Data addicts who suffer withdrawal when they can’t get an Internet connection will find it’s cheaper to get a fix in downtown Las Vegas.

The City Council on Wednesday approved an agreement with provider LV.net to offer free access via Wi-Fi throughout a large swath of downtown.

The free service is in addition to a fee-based service already available through the company and is aimed at people who use tablets and laptop devices.

In exchange for offering free access to the public, the city no longer will charge the company rent to keep transmitters on city property, mostly light poles.

In addition to benefiting from free rent, LV.net will sell advertising that links and promotes downtown businesses on the splash page users will see when they connect to the service. The ad revenue will be used to maintain and improve the service.

While free Wi-Fi is common in coffee shops and other small businesses, the LV.net service will offer a few advantages, said Mitch Gonzalez, the company’s vice president of sales.

Among those is a more robust service than most small businesses offer, Gonzalez said. That’s because the company’s network includes several Internet providers, so if any one is down or slow, it can automatically shift to another.

A second advantage is that people using the LV.net Wi-Fi could remain logged on as long as they are within the service area.

Gonzalez also said the network will be more secure than what is typically offered by small businesses because LV.net monitors the network and can detect rogue access and other security breaches.

There are, however, some limitations to the free network. Speed will be limited to about 1 mpbs, which Gonzalez said is quicker than typical mobile 3g service but slower than 4g mobile or wired service.

For the time being, the network will block YouTube and other video streaming sites because they take up too much bandwidth.

The company is still negotiating with the city to access city communication wires that, if available, could accommodate video fed to users via Wi-Fi.

Phase 1 of the coverage is between Grand Central Parkway, Eighth Street, Bonanza Road and Charleston Boulevard.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285 .