Grand Rapids offers free Wi-Fi access to the public in 10 parks
Thanks to a pilot program supported by CARES Act funding, 10 parks in Grand Rapids, Mich., now have free public Wi-Fi access. According to the city’s parks and recreation department, the Network in a Box (NIB) program aims to bridge the digital divide in the city that widened during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing year-round outdoor internet access.
The NIB hotspots have a range of approximately 900 feet and can support between 30 and 50 devices at once, depending on usage. All users need to log onto the Wi-Fi is to enter the name of the park (network) they are in, and content access is filtered using the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) guidelines.
“This pilot program is an important step toward ensuring a more connected community in a way that’s free and accessible to residents across our city,” said David Marquardt, parks and recreation director for Grand Rapids. “Park visitors can now work, learn and communicate with others while also enjoying the natural beauty of Grand Rapids.”
The parks were selected based on heavy event use, community need and existing infrastructure that NIB devices could easily attach to. The selected parks include: Ah-Nab-Awen Park, Belknap Park, Briggs Park, Fish Ladder Park, Garfield Park, MacKay-Jaycees Park, Martin Luther King Park, Richmond Park, Riverside Park, Roosevelt Park.
The NIB equipment purchase and installation were offered to local townships and cities by Kent County, Mich., and the program is currently funded through December 2021. After that, the city will determine whether to continue the program based on funding availability, usage and community support.