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Ballston Gets Free ‘Gigabit-Capable’ Wi-Fi in Public Spaces

Ballston neighborhood signFree district-wide Wi-Fi is launching in Ballston this month, promising to deliver a high-speed and seamless internet connection.

BLinked is available throughout Ballston’s public areas, thanks to a partnership between the Ballston Business Improvement District and Rockville-based startup Wi-Fiber. The BID says it is the first seamless, district-wide network in the region.

Wi-Fiber developed a system to serve the more than 30,000 people that work in Ballston. More than 30 discreet antennae relay signals connect all of Ballston’s outdoor public spaces to the “gigabit-capable” network, according to a press release.

Using algorithms to track data usage patterns throughout the neighborhood, BLinked also reads and interprets network activity in real time. It then uses the gathered data to redistribute resources to meet traffic and usage demands, meaning that users should not experience slow-downs.

“This is the next step in making Ballston stronger, smarter, and safer,” said Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston BID. “We’re proud to be the first to meet the impending need for public connectivity, and we anticipate this inspires new information and communication infrastructures throughout Arlington and across the region.”

Such programs have been requested by local business leaders, including Monumental Sports & Entertainment chairman Ted Leonsis in an interview with the Washington Business Journal last month.

A similar initiative has been undertaken in New York City through LinkNYC, which has worked to replace pay phones in the city with so-called “Links,” which provide services like high-speed Wi-Fi, phone calls, a tablet for maps and city services and charging outlets.

The new Wi-Fi network can help reduce strain on traditional cellular networks, which can crumble under heightened activity in crisis situations.

Chase Donnelly, a founding partner of Wi-Fiber, said the move to area-wide Wi-Fi can help integrate electric grids, water systems, stoplights and more into the Internet system to improve efficiency.

“This network could one day serve as the spinal cord for the city’s infrastructure,” Donnelly said in a statement. “This vision people have about the next generation of cities in which everything is interconnected, that’s what we’re providing the foundation for.”

Update at 3 p.m. — A PR rep for the BID clarified that the network is “gigabit-capable,” not “gigabyte-capable” as stated in the press release. The network is currently being tested and is expected to be available to the public by the end of the month.

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