What is Albany FreeNet?


FirstLight Fiber, Mayor Sheehan and the City of Albany are proud to offer Albany FreeNet, a free, high-speed "Wi-Fi" Internet service, to a growing number of locations in Albany. Any Wi-Fi enabled electronic device, such as laptop computers, smart phones and PDAs can connect to the Internet wirelessly wherever there is network coverage. Albany FreeNet makes living, working, shopping, and playing in Albany more convenient and effortless than ever.


Albany FreeNet was launched in late 2006 as a public/private partnership between the City of Albany and FirstLight Fiber (formerly Tech Valley Communications), and since then has provided tens of thousands of user sessions. The design, deployment and upkeep of the wireless network is managed by FirstLight. FirstLight has been methodically rebuilding the telecommunications infrastructure of the Capital Region for the past eight years to facilitate continued development in the Upstate economy. With FirstLightís unique advanced design and vast fiber optic assets, the City of Albany network is one of the highest capacity WiFi networks in the country.


Where is the wireless network available?


You can find the most up-to-date coverage map here.


What equipment do I need to connect to the wireless network?


1. You will need a computer (PC, Mac, etc.), smart phone or PDA that has WiFi capability. Most laptops manufactured today, and some smart phones and PDAs, have WiFi capability built in. Refer to the ownerís manual to confirm if your device is WiFi-enabled. If your computer does not have a built-in wireless networking card, you can most likely purchase a wireless card (or adapter) from major electronics retailers or direct from the manufacturer of your device. 99% of the wireless modems and devices meeting the official 802.11b/g WiFi certification should work with our wireless network. To learn more about WiFi 802/11b/g, visit www.weca.net


2. Microsoft Windows 98 (or later) or Mac OS 9.0 (or later)


3. A standard Internet browser like Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Netscape Navigator, etc.

If you know that service is available in your area or it appears that service is available on our coverage map, but you're not able to see or properly use the network inside your home or business, you may also need a wireless modem.


What is a wireless modem?


A wireless modem is a small device that enables faster and more reliable connections from indoors to the WiFi network outside. A wireless modem is typically many times stronger than the radio in your computer, smart phone, etc. The modem also provides enhanced security.


How long can I use Albany FreeNet?


There is no limit on how long you can use Albany FreeNet.


Will there be wireless coverage everywhere in the City of Albany?

We hope to make City-wide coverage a reality, but we are currently focusing on downtown neighborhoods where household Internet penetration is lowest.











How do I connect to Albany FreeNet


1.You must be within one of our coverage zones 

2.Select "Albany FreeNet" from your list of available wireless networks and press "connect." 

3.Launch your internet browser and begin to surf. 

4.The Albany FreeNet landing page will automatically load to your browser. 

5.Review the Terms of Use and click the "Free Internet" button. No password is required.


Can I use Albany FreeNet if Iím inside?


This depends on several things, including how close to one of our access radios your building is, whether the room you are trying to connect from is on the side of the building that faces one of our access radios; how many stories up you are, and what material the building is constructed from. In many cases, interference caused by walls, overhangs and other obstructions, as well as distance from the access point can inhibit your ability to connect.


I live in an apartment building. How many stories up will your signal reach and are there any devices that I could use to help "boost" my signal?


If your apartment unit is on the side of your building that faces one of our access radios, you should be able to receive a signal up to the 10th floor.


I have poor cell phone reception in my home, how will that affect my ability to receive wireless broadband?


While poor cell phone reception may be an indicator of a potential environmental or structural interference issue, it may not preclude you from receiving our signal. To help mitigate interference issues, you may need a wireless modem that has a greater sensitivity than standard WiFi devices normally supplied with laptops or available over the counter. If structural variable such as a stucco exterior of your home prove to be a significant barrier to our signal, wireless modem in or adjacent to an exterior window has shown to be a viable solution.


I can see Albany FreeNet in my list of available networks on my laptop or wireless device and have a good signal but Iím unable to log in or itís taking very long for pages to load.


Most wireless devices, including laptops, have a wireless radio inside that is designed to access local wireless internet networks (i.e. offices, coffee shops, etc...). They are not designed to communicate with a network radio that is outside and down the street. The radios that are out on the street poles are very powerful, and have the ability to transmit through most walls of homes and buildings. What this means is that your wireless device will usually be able to "hear" the signal coming from outside from our radios. The issue is the laptop card cannot communicate data back to the radios, as it is simply not strong enough.


An example would be Person A (our radios) a block away yelling very loudly at Person B down the street (your laptop). Person B (your laptop) is able to hear what the louder Person A is saying, but Person B has a sore throat and does not have the ability to yell back at a volume that Person A (our radios) can hear, so there is no ability for communication.

Your wireless device can hear our "loud" radios outside, and your signal meter on your wireless device will show this (i.e. multiple bars, etc...). The wireless radio in your device simply cannot (and was not designed to) be "loud" enough to communicate back. It is intended to access a wireless signal through maybe a wall or across the room. This inability to communicate will results in dropped connections and poor speeds and performance.

To correct this, you may need a wireless modem.


How many WiFi devices can I connect to the wireless network?


You can attach as many devices to Albany FreeNet as you would like.


How fast is the wireless service?


Albany FreeNet is a best effort broadband (or high-speed) service with speeds up to 1.5Mbps download and 1.5Mbps upload.


Is Albany FreeNet secure?


The Albany FreeNet network is an open network. As such, we recommend that you use a firewall on your device, turn off any file-sharing and only conduct internet transactions on secure websites using an encrypted SSL server (a lock should appear on your browser if this is the case).


Why do I get automatically redirected to the Albany FreeNet sign-on page?


Your computer is automatically connecting to our wireless signal due to its high signal quality at your location. If you do not wish to use our service, see your wireless card's documentation on how to manually choose which wireless network your computer should connect to.


How does the wireless network work?


The wireless network utilizes special outdoor access radios or "access points" that broadcast high frequency IEEE 802.11a/b/g "WiFi" radio signals. WiFi is the dominant global standard for WLANs (Wireless Local Area Networks). FirstLight uses industry leading wireless radio technology and connects more of our access point radios directly to fiber optic cable to ensure high speed connections for many users. To learn more about WiFi 802/11b/g, visit www.weca.net


What is the range of each access radio?


Approximately 600 ft. in an average area. Large buildings will block signal as well as heavy tree coverage. More open areas with less tree coverage can reach up to 1000 ft.