17 Nov Community-Wide Network Delivers Free Wireless Access to Council Bluffs Residents
Council Bluffs builds one of the most expansive free Wi-Fi networks in the country to improve Internet access for students and disadvantaged families.
Handing out laptops and tablets in schools is only one step in the mission to provide students with technology education. As districts across America have discovered, many families don’t have Internet access at home or have poor connections that are too slow for students to complete daily assignments.
CBS affiliate, KHOU-TV, recently reported on Darron Risinger, who is allegedly failing a class because many of his assignments must be completed online. Mother Heather Risinger says her family of six cannot afford the extra expense, so Darron has to look for other places outside his Houston home to use his school-issued laptop. While the district claims to make every effort to aid families without Internet access, the Risingers say the mobile hotspot they borrow from Darron’s school doesn’t provide an adequate connection.
The problems the Risingers face are mirrored throughout low-income homes across the country. Schools that issue student Chromebooks have the advantage of providing many applications that don’t require a constant Internet connection, but students hit roadblocks when their assignments have to be submitted online or they need real-time collaboration to complete group projects.
The Council Bluffs Area Wi-Fi Consortium is combating similar problems by building a massive wireless network that is expansive enough to provide strong Internet connections throughout the city. In mid-October, the city officially introduced the Bluffs Community Wi-Fi network, known as BLink.
The Council Bluffs Community School District currently runs a Chromebook one-to-one program in grades three to 12, and middle and high school students are able to take their devices home. At the BLink launch, students demonstrated how to log onto the network. Fourth-grader Kyler Myers even showed genuine excitement at the prospect of completing homework without struggling with his home Internet connection, which constantly freezes. In school, students connect their Chromebooks to a separate filtered network with secure access.
While current coverage is limited to certain areas of Council Bluffs, the consortium is planning a second phase to service the remainder of the city. The organization is also considering options for partnering with neighboring towns to expand beyond city lines.
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