The company trying to bring free wireless internet to downtown Petaluma is scrambling to get several hot spots up and running by the Butter & Egg Days parade on Saturday after experiencing a setback — Comcast, the company set to provide the infrastructure, pulled out of the agreement at the last minute.
The original plan, supported by the City of Petaluma, was for a private company, AdSpots, to fund the undertaking by selling advertisements to downtown businesses, which would be displayed on a web page that people would see when they first accessed the internet. Comcast had said it would provide the infrastructure that would make the hot spots possible.
"Our business model does not support what AdSpots is trying to do," said Comcast spokesman Bryan Byrd. We apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused and wish them luck with their venture."
AdSpots has recently found a new business to partner with — Sonic, a Santa Rosa-based internet provider. It is now hurrying to secure advertising and confirm which buildings will host hot spots.
"It's like the wild west for Wi-Fi," said Ryan Williams, who joined the city's Technology Advisory Committee with the goal of bringing Petaluma free wireless. Now, he's working part-time for AdSpots.
He says the company hopes to first bring wireless to the areas around the Turning Basin and Putnam Plaza, but still plans to eventually blanket downtown Petaluma in a wireless signal.