Wait Park is set to go wireless next week. A “Covid-safe” ribbon cutting has been planned for in-person and Facebook Live at 4 p.m. Aug. 5 to celebrate the launch of free WiFi service at the beloved central park in downtown Canby, courtesy the city and DirectLink.
DirectLink, in collaboration with the City of Canby, received a national Smart Rural Community Grant of $5,000 toward the installation of free WiFi access in three parks: Wait, Legacy and Locust, which collectively attract more than 75,000 users each year.
The secure WiFi platform will promote city and community events and is intended to support tourism and local industry. The collaborative project was made possible through matching funds from DirectLink and the city, which is installing power systems and financing the ongoing costs of the fiber optic Internet monthly service.
The organizations have worked closely together over the last couple of years to secure and implement this program.
The Canby Public Library is one of the only free opportunities for WiFi within city limits, remarked Economic Development Director Jamie Stickel, and reduced library hours may have affected residents’ ability to apply for a new job, do schoolwork or apply for benefits.
“We need additional opportunities for our citizens to not just survive, but to thrive,” Stickel said.
Coffee shops and restaurants are often a source of free WiFi to patrons as well, but of course, Covid-19 has also made its mark on many of these establishments. City leaders and DirectLink officials believe providing free WiFi in centralized Canby locations like parks will provide access to those who need it most.
“We aim to address the digital divide so our neighbors who may not be able to afford home Internet service can still apply for jobs, access healthcare and school portals,” said DirectLink President Paul Hauer. “The implementation of this WiFi in popular city parks will also help to create a viable, desirable benefit that could bring in new residents, tourism and industry.”
Once installed, the system will be capable of accommodating up to hundreds of simultaneous users with a free connection at each park. The city plans to use the initial authentication screen to connect with the service to announce upcoming events for each park as well as relay important information.
Internet speed per device and amount of connections can be adjusted over time as usage increases. DirectLink will also be able to provide analytics as to time of day, usage patterns, bandwidth and device types to the city for planning and economic development.
The project will provide free WiFi during the regular open hours of each location. Installation in Wait Park began in April and will be available for general public use at the end of this month. Construction on the Legacy Park is already underway with an estimated activation date by the end of August.
Fiber construction has begun for Locust Park, which is the final piece of the project. The company intends the project to be finished and open to users at all locations by the end of September.
The grant was provided by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association through its Smart Rural Community program, which supports broadband-enabled community initiatives in rural America.
These grants are designed to provide support for broadband-enabled solutions that generate innovative economic development, education, health care and other vital solutions for rural areas.
“Smart Rural Community is a growing network of innovative broadband providers delivering the Internet’s fastest speeds in some of the most remote and rural communities of our country,” said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield. “I applaud DirectLink for its commitment to delivering broadband-enabled opportunities that drive innovation and promote economic development in the community.”
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