Green Bay will provide free high-speed internet connection in the parks through the CARES Act

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GREEN BAY – Up to four parks in Green Bay will become high-speed internet hotspots as part of a new city plan for federal pandemic relief money.

City staff members want to use $ 253,000 of the CARES Act Community Development Grant block funding to expand the city’s high-speed Internet service to several parks, each in a low- and moderate-income neighborhood of Green. Bay where about one in five households do not. have an internet connection.

The first four parks to consider are Seymour Park on Ashland Avenue, Eastman Park in the Olde North neighborhood, Navarino Park on South Jackson Street, and St. John’s Park in the Downtown Green Bay neighborhood.

At Seymour Park, broadband access would be a boon for children who use the park in the summer, homeless people and job seekers who need a computer and internet connection, said Miriah Kelley, a member of the Seymour Park Neighborhood Association Board of Directors.

“I think it might help,” Kelley said. “It’s almost impossible to apply for a job with a paper application. ”

Smartphones provided to students often have a limited number of minutes that are quickly consumed, she said, making a free hotspot more appealing.

The grant would not be enough to cover the physical costs of building an Internet cable to the four parks, said Mike Hronek, the City of Green Bay’s IT administrator. Corn Nsight telephony services Innovation director Brighid Riordan, a member of the City Redevelopment Authority who discussed the plan on Tuesday, offered to work with the city to help cut costs and maximize the number of locations reached.

“We have a lot of fiber in the soil. There is more than one result that we can achieve if we work together,” said Riordan.

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Working with Nsight would help achieve a longer-term goal of expanding internet service to more parks across town, Hronek said. He said expanding internet access to parks would also allow the city to install security cameras in parks for public safety purposes.

Residents of the Navarino Neighborhood Association have approved extending the internet to parks so that security cameras can be installed to help combat drug trafficking and other security concerns in the park, Kayla Branam said. , president of the association. It is not so favorable to free and public access to the Internet.

“It raises red flags for me,” Branam said. “A bright, sunny park isn’t the best place to do your homework. I’m afraid it might attract people who just hang out and do nothing.”

She said residents of Navarino can already use the internet for free at the Brown County Central Library.

The four parks were selected in consultation with staff members from the Green Bay Area Public School District and other nonprofit service providers, who helped identify areas where broad access was needed. band is the largest, said Will Peters, neighborhood development specialist with the City of Green Bay. . The only requirement of the grant program was that the parks be located in low and moderate income neighborhoods.

The hotspot would be installed in the pavilion or shelter building of each park. However, there is no shelter in the Navarino park, so the hotspot would be erected on a pole near the playing field. The access points will not be able to cover all the parks, but would be close enough to the parking lots so that people can connect to the Internet while sitting in their vehicle.

Navarino Park was developed and improved by one of the city's 32 active neighborhood associations, through fundraising and grants.

“This is not the answer, the miracle solution to solving our broadband access throughout the city, but we are considering helping it, adding a few more locations to improve access for families and people who do not. ‘may not have access to it at home, “said Peters.

Almost one in four households in these neighborhoods does not have an Internet connection, and just over half have a service that can provide a download speed of 25 megabits per second, the current federal standard for broadband Internet service. .

The coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses and schools to rely on online options for employees and students for much of the past year and a half. These measures have drawn more attention to the need for high-speed internet access, especially in rural areas where the high-speed access required for virtual conferences often involves data caps and higher prices.

The pandemic has also revealed a specific need for internet access among families with school-aged children. Public schools in the Green Bay area, for example, spent $ 2.1 million in 2020 provide Internet access points, computers and software licenses to help students make the transition to virtual learning.

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Green Bay Community Police officers Craig Carlson, left, and Mark Strojny, right, have fun visiting children at Eastman Park in the Olde North neighborhood of Green Bay on Tuesday July 7, 2015.

The city’s use of the money would be allowed under the Essential Frontline Employee Relief program, created to improve the quality of life for low- and moderate-income families.

The Green Bay Redevelopment Authority approved the allocation of funds on Tuesday and it will go to City Council for final approval. The board also gave the city the flexibility to adjust specific parks based on where Nsight has resources to offer, although the parks should always be in low and moderate income areas.

The plan would use existing Internet pipelines owned by the City and County of Brown to extend Internet service to the parks in question. The city would install a new underground conduit to cover the remaining distance to the parks.

Contact Jeff Bollier at (920) 431-8387 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @GBstreetwise.


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