WILSON, N.C. –Wilson is preparing to launch a free wireless Internet network across downtown in a move to help attract more businesses.

The City Council voted unanimously on Thursday night to back the idea. Since Wilson already has a high-speed fiber network in place, the city believes the network will be up and running in as soon as eight weeks.

Wireless fidelity, or WiFi, technology will be used. The city will utilize its own resources and work with outside contractors to create the network, according to city spokesman Brian Bowman.

“We’re trying to make downtown the best it can be,” Bowman explained. “We are adding a new tool that we hope will bring more businesses downtown.”

The project will cost an estimated $70,000, according to Bowman.

Municipalities large and small across the United States are deploying WiFi networks, which have a much wider range than so-called “hot spots” at individual businesses or buildings. Winston-Salem already offers free wireless access in parts of downtown, and cities such as Philadelphia and San Francisco plan huge deployments.

The Wilson network will cover some 30 city blocks.

“This WiFi network shows, again, the Council’s commitment to downtown Wilson,” said City Manager Grant Goings. “We have a beautiful downtown area that has potential to be much more than it is today. This network provides another tool to lure small business and improve the quality of life for everyone downtown.”