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Metro Wireless Node

Antennas like these are placed across a metro area to create a wireless network. Picture by Robo56 via Wiki.

Aside from the home, the neighborhood, close-by amenities, traffic patterns and the quality of the schools, what do you look for when deciding on a real estate purchase? One of the most important things is going to be the city itself. The way a city is run, the way it does business with and for its residents and the efficiency of its services are key to enjoying the place you call home.

The news that Daniel Island’s Governor’s Park is now part of the Charleston Free Wi-Fi Network got us thinking about how technologically advanced the area is when you look at the rest of South Carolina. The only other SC city that we can think of that offers government-sponsored free wireless internet connectivity to its residents in public places such as parks is Rock Hill near Charlotte, NC. Charleston currently offers free wi-fi hotspots at Marion Square park downtown and at Governor’s Park on Daniel Island.

The benefits of this service are pretty far stretching in our plugged-in world. First of all, it is an extremely cost-effective alternative to having to pay a monthly fee to connect your wireless devices to a private Internet provider, which could cost $100 a month or more. Secondly, it encourages residents to take advantage of these wonderful outdoor public spaces while giving them the option to remain connected to other parts of their lives.

For better or for worse, our dependence on the Internet is not likely to diminish, and when a city recognizes the needs of its residents, that city really becomes a better place to live. It’s pretty amazing to see somewhere as historic as Charleston remain true to its roots while taking great strides to morph into a 21st century city. Right now, we can enjoy free Internet access at the park, but that wireless network also has the potential to improve public safety, provide automated electricity and water meter readings, implement automated billing services, and help the government operate more cost effectively.

Each year, the Center for Digital Government  invites communities with populations of 30,000 or greater to participate in its Digital Cities Survey and recognizes the top 10 cities in four different size categories. According to the center, “Cities that are investing in technology are capturing cost savings that are critical to continuity of operations and their ability to meet higher demand for services.” South Carolina was nowhere to be seen on the center’s 2011 top ten lists, but we hope that will be changing soon.

Other technology perks can be found in Charleston, too. One thing that those of us who have lived here for a while tend to take for granted is the government’s efficient online bill-pay options. Electricity and natural gas, water and sewer and even county vehicle and property taxes can be paid online without fees. A lot of local SC governments let you pay your bills online, but many will charge you $1–$5 per bill to do so. Charleston provides this convenience for free. Another cool thing in Charleston is the handful of electric car charging stations installed in the city’s public parking garages at 75 Calhoun, the Visitor Center and Queen Street.

If you have any questions about Daniel Island or Charleston area real estate, government services, or anything else, please don’t hesitate to give Bob Brennaman a call — 843-345-6074.