CityLink provides Wi-fi at Square in McDonough, parks

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

The City of McDonough is helping people to be more “plugged in” whenever they’re in the area.

The municipal government recently began using CityLink, designed as a free service for public Wi-fi at city parks and on the Square.

Steve Sikes is the technology services director for the City of McDonough. He said Citylink, which went live in January, was made possible several years ago through the fourth installment of a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

“Citizens voted for public Wi-fi in city parks and on the Square, and so SPLOST IV funded this,” he said. “It just took a little while to develop our infrastructure to be able to accommodate that. What we have done for the city is create a public-access Wi-fi system.”

Approximately 2,000 devices may connect to CityLink on the Square. Richard Craig Park can connect 1,500 devices, said Sikes, while Rufus Stewart Park can handle 500 devices. Alexander Park has a Wi-fi capacity of 1,000 devices, and Big Springs Park can accommodate 500 devices.

“If your device is idle for 15 minutes, the system has to disconnect you and you have to reconnect,” said Sikes, explaining that remaining connected consumes a Wi-fi spot that someone else could use.

“Residences near those parks are able to connect to it,” he said. “But again, if it it’s idle for 15 minutes, it will disconnect you.”

Users are limited to a maximum of 10 megabits of speed. That amount could be more or less depending on a user’s distance from an access point.

Sikes said the City is also using Ruckus outdoor Wi-fi radios for added security during larger events in the area.

“This would be considered mesh Wi-fi,” he said. “This is an expandable system. We have the capability to increase the bandwidth available during those large events, like the Geranium Festival.”

For user security, wireless access points will not allow two connected devices to access one another directly, thus eliminating a path for potential hackers.

The Citylink system is protected by Barracuda Web Security, and contains web filters to prevent pornography, hate speech and violence. Sikes noted that the city is taking a “common-sense” approach to facilitate safe Wi-fi use.

“It’s as safe as we can make it,” he said. “We’ve tried to provide a good, reliable wireless network.”

For more information, call McDonough City Hall at 770-957-3915.