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North Carolina Paper Will Provide Free Local WiFi; Plans Paid WiMax

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I’ve seen a lot of WiFi models lately but this appears to be the first from a local newspaper. (You’ll let me know if I’m wrong, I’m sure.) The Pilot, which covers Pinehurst and several other communities in North Carolina, will provide free WiFi across Moore County. Publisher David Woronoff explains: “The Pilot’s mission is to serve Moore County and we think the technology has advanced to the point that we can help bind the community together in a dynamic and compelling way with The Pilot’s products and Internet service.” They’ve acquired WiFi equipment, hired a GM and will start the rollout with a transmitter on their own building in Southern Pines. This isn’t a value add for print subscribers — it will be accessible to readers and non-readers. The Pilot plans to launch a fee-based WiMax network later this year.
Other plans include a major web redesign — averages 5,000 uniques a day — with full bells and whistles (podcasts, community-oriented blogs, multimedia, etc.).
It will be interesting to see how they handle advertising and how the free service will promote the paper. (via Romenesko)
Update: As Mike Orren points out in the comments, The Pilot (which I should have noted earlier) is owned by a group once associated with The News & Observer and Nando Media, including Frank Daniels Jr., Frank Daniels III and Woronoff. In that context, it may not be that surprising but it’s still a bold move.