Nearly 80 parks, public places now offer free WiFi across Kent County
Screen capture of the interactive map that shows the location of all new emergency WiFi hotspots across Kent County. Each orange dot represents the location of a hotspot. (Courtesy | Kent County)
There are nearly 80 parks and other public places across Kent County now that allow free WiFi access.
This decision is an effort by Kent County leaders to solve slow internet issues in a short time for residents who learning or working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
When much of the county’s citizens went to remote learning and working both all education levels and officers, that access to WiFi in many areas, from urban to suburban to rural, became immediately an issue, said Tim Mroz, senior vice president of strategic initiatives for The Right Place economic development group.
According to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 33,100, or roughly 13.7%, of all households in Kent County that do not register any internet subscription.
An interactive map pinpointing the location of all 78 hotspots around the county can be found here such as Ah-Nab-Awen Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and more. These hotspots, ideally, have a connection radius of about 900 feet, Mroz said.
Thanks to that the County choose the right place to implement the WiFi hotspot devices around the county. That work officially started in October and wrapped up in December.
The initiative was funded with a portion of the county’s $114.6 million shares of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars. To date, $419,000 of the CARES Act funds have been spent on the project.
However, the county does not consider these emergency WiFi hotspots as a permanent solution to get fast internet connection speed and solve connection gaps magnified by the COVID-19 shutdown.
Save for the hotspots that Kent County placed in its parks system, the county will take responsibility for choosing and controlling these devices.
The stipulations to the locations were that the hotspots must be in publicly accessible places and can capture a wifi signal strength. The cities and townships that now own the WiFi hotspots must keep them online and operational for at least two years.
The restrictions placed on viewable websites and materials while on the WiFi hotspots vary by municipality.
Kent County’s broadband group will start its work in March.
The group includes not just Kent County elected leaders, but also multiple businesses and communications representatives, including Mroz.