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Free Wifi Coming To Philadelphia Neighborhood

By KYW tech editor Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - A new wifi network is rolling out on Saturday in part of Philadelphia -- and you won't have to pay a dime to use it.

Free wireless Internet is the business of Bamboowifi.

"The more we can help contribute to people's bottom line and offer them free data, the better," says the Philadelphia startup's co-founder, James Gregory.

When might it come in handy?

"I'm not close enough to my home wifi, but I don't want to eat up my cell phone data," says Bamboowifi CEO David Platt. "So here's this 3rd option while I'm out to dinner, I'm at the park, or I'm at the gym."

Platt says to expect Internet speeds around 3-5 Mbps per second.

"For example, Netflix streaming needs something in that range," he explains. "Pretty much everything you're used to doing on your cell phone, you'll be able to do on this wifi network -- but it won't eat up your data."

In exchange for the free wifi, you watch a short video ad -- such as for a coffee shop up the street.

"These are advertisements that are relative to people," Gregory says. "We hope to create something that supports our business and the local community and our users."

The company has goal of setting up free connections in lower-income neighborhoods where families often can't afford to get online.

"That's part of why we received a grant from the Penn Treaty Special Services District," Gregory notes. "We're able to provide free access, which increases accessibility for people who might not otherwise have the economic means. That's very important to us."

Access points for the networks are hosted along N. 3rd Street, at places like the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association and Jarvus Innovations.

If you're on North 3d St., look for Bamboowifi on your device's list of available networks. Or stop by their launch party -- featuring their mascot, a man in a panda suit -- from 10am-Noon on Saturday, May 7th at LocalHost in Northern Liberties.

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