Arkansas Working to Rise on Digital Index

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Sep. 12, 2011 12:00 am  

On the local side, Aristotle Inc. of Little Rock creates signals for clients including Little Rock's River Market District, the Little Rock Zoo, Mountain Harbor Resort & Spa on Lake Ouachita and the Willie L. Hinton Downtown Neighborhood Resource Center in Little Rock.

Some of the Wi-Fi service, like the zoo's, is provided on a pro-bono basis. The money Aristotle loses on these endeavors, said President L. Elizabeth Bowles, is considered philanthropy.

"That's a donation we make to the community," she said.

But not everyone gets Aristotle's services for free, and in 2007 the wireless company beat out AT&T and Comcast for the rights to provide $450-a-month service to the River Market area, stretching from the main River Market building to the river, along President Clinton Avenue and down to the Interstate 30 Bridge.

Who pays for it? Not the River Market. The Arkansas Young Professionals Network originally contracted Aristotle in 2007, and demand for the service was high right away.

"When we turned the system on to test it a few weeks ago, we immediately had over 200 visitors try to access the service," Bowles said in 2007.

But problems were ahead: After making five payments on the service, AYPN folded.

"We supported it for free for six months," Bowles said. "We bore all the costs. We didn't want the city to be without it."

Fortunately for Aristotle, the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau then stepped in and took the contract, and it has kept it to this day, renewing earlier in 2011.

And why would LRCVB want to shoulder this cost?

"LRCVB supports it in order to promote people to come to the city," Bowles said. "In municipalities, you have an entity whose job it is to increase business in a particular area."

LRCVB is primarily concerned with conventions, and free wireless connections are a big draw for those, Bowles said.



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