New downtown business makes Niles a ‘hot spot’

Published 7:42 pm Tuesday, October 28, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Downtown Niles has literally become a "hot spot," thanks to the business initiative of Michael Christenson.
The 24-year-old web designer and freelance programmer opened his new business, Flashband Wireless Inc., located at 222 E. Main St. in downtown Niles, last Friday.
Being a "Hot Spot" means anyone with a computer and a wireless card can get access to the internet while in the downtown area.
The service comes at a cost to Christenson but not to his customers, and is Christenson's own way of encouraging people to do business downtown.
Providing several options of high-speed wireless internet to residential customers and businesses, Christenson hopes to reach those who don't have access to DSL, Comcast cable internet, and those whose dial-up connection is slow.
Christenson said so far 60 people have showed interest in his service.
Currently using an antenna located on the roof of neighboring Thayer's Jewelry to transmit signals, Christenson said he is working on two options that will enable him to reach customers within a 15- to 17-mile radius of where the antenna is located.
When in place, Christenson said his expanded service will reach southern Buchanan and Granger, Ind.
Although Christenson's wireless internet service comes as fast as 11 Mb download capacity per second, the basic package, starts at 256 Kb per second, he said.
But Christenson is also among the few outlets selling Apple Macintosh hardware between Niles and Chicago.
Christenson said he carries Macs because they are "stable, don't crash and are fast."
He also said Mac hardware and his wireless service are a good fit.
Although selling hardware and getting people to subscribe to his internet service is the main part of the business, Christenson also hopes to attract customers with other services.
Through Flashband, people can for example order business cards that will be created by graphic designers and put on a CD, ready to be taken to print shops for printing, he said.
Christenson will also offer access to video editing equipment at his downtown store.
There will also be education discounts for home schoolers and other educational institutions.
Christenson knows there are a few people in the area who use Linux, an alternative operative software system, and will install the system on some of his computers for the benefit of his customers.
A partner will help Christenson install the wireless service at residents.
His father-in-law, the owner of Thayer's Jewelry store, is helping finance the project.
Long term, Christenson hopes to expand his service to cover southwestern Michigan, Holland, Grand Rapids and northern Indiana.
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