LOCKLAND, Ohio (WKRC)- It’s been a year since the Lockland School District implemented a program to make sure all its students had access to free, high-speed, wireless internet by creating several hot spots in the village.
Now, Lockland along with Arlington Heights are marking another Wi-Fi milestone. They hope to have the area blanketed with free Wi-Fi coverage, so everyone can benefit from the high-speed connection.
Lockland is the fourth poorest school district in the state and with that came with the digital divide and inequity of not having high-speed internet service for all students. Superintendent Bob Longworth says that program has been an incredible success and not just for students.
"For students, it definitely increases their opportunities for educational advancement beyond the schoolhouse, but furthermore, we've learned that our adults in the community are also taking advantage of this network in ways that are increasing their ability to access higher education and increased employment opportunities. It really just opens up the world to our small village here in Lockland and in Arlington Heights," Longworth said.
The villages and Cincinnati Bell are looking for houses and other buildings to locate another 60 access points throughout the area to offer coverage to all households.
"We've realized at this point that Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury, it's literally a lifeline for our students and for our families," said Longworth. "We recognize opportunity gaps throughout our region, and this is one that we know was impacting our students and families. We're just really proud of the fact that we've been able to collaborate with the village municipalities, and also the state and federal government, to kind of close that gap, to give our kids the same level of access that others enjoy."
When finished, folks like Jennifer Moreau plan to take advantage of the free service. She's paying $60 a month for internet right now.
"I could use that $60 for so many other things -- groceries, medicine, my granddaughter -- just so many other things that money could be used for. I managed to use it for the internet because we need the internet, and the other things that we go without," Moreau said.
Moreau says the high-speed service will also allow her to work from home.
"I'm supposed to be starting into virtual assistant work, and I'll be able to work from home three days a week and then going to the office two days a week. So, I need internet," she said.
How secure will this new service be? Local 12 asked Cincinnati Bell’s Director of UniCity John Putnam. He says not to worry.
"The security settings that we enable are very high-level technology. We're using enterprise-grade Wi-Fi hotspots. So, yes, you can do your banking and conduct healthcare-type activities over the Wi-Fi," said Putnam.
The project should be finished as early as the end of the month.
This project is funded for 36 months with community development block grants and COVID-19 relief funds. The goal is to find a way to keep it free beyond that three-year mark.
"We are working with all of these communities on our way to sustain and monetize these solutions, so that we can continue these on," said Putnam. "Obviously, we don't want to take away these great services to people down the road. So, we're working to make sure that that they can continue the funding for these projects in the future."
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