JANESVILLE — Robert Novak III thinks Janesville is a good community.
But, he said, it could use another checkmark next to the attributes that support quality of life.
That’s why Novak and his young Janesville company are spearheading an effort to bring free community wireless Internet access to the downtown area.
With a partner, Novak owns Small Business Technology Solutions, a technical service provider for homes, businesses and nonprofits. The company also has an office in Kenosha.
“I came up with this idea one day when I was sitting in Courthouse Park on Main Street just enjoying the day,” said Novak, who graduated from UW-Whitewater with a business degree with an emphasis in information technology infrastructure.
“I was just thinking about what can be done to drive more traffic to the downtown area and bring back the luster it once had. Then it hit me: How great would it be if the entire area was covered in free WiFi?”
Small Business Technology Solutions will donate the labor and equipment for the project, which Novak said could approach $10,000.
The company will ask downtown businesses to host small access points and donate a small portion of their high-speed Internet to create the network. In exchange, the businesses will get an ad on the network.
Donations to offset hardware costs will be accepted.
Novak, who lives in Janesville, said the project has two goals.
“The first is obviously to give patrons another reason to go downtown, enjoy all it has to offer and visit the local businesses,” he said. “The second is that all the ads shown on the network will target those people within walking distance of the business displaying the ad.”
Novak said he has met with city and downtown officials, and the response has been favorable.
“I think it’s a great idea, a real no-brainer,” said Laurie Huml Eckert, a vice president at Forward Janesville. “Robert and his company have been very supportive of the community and they’re real go-getters.”
Novak hopes to have the network off the ground in the Main and Milwaukee streets area when the farmers market opens for the season.
“We’ll grow from there,” he said.
“We are doing this to add one more check in the good column of all Janesville has to offer,” Novak said. “We want to show the community our company is here to stay and want to see this community succeed by giving back in the best way we know how.”