COVINGTON, Ky. (WKRC) - The city of Covington is smashing the digital divide by installing WiFi hotspots throughout its neighborhoods.
So far, 12 devices have been installed on the outside of various homes and buildings, including the Covington Fire Department.
“I think what the coronavirus has done is make us understand that there is a need out there for WiFi for people that can’t afford it,” said Fire Chief Mark Pierce.
When asked if he would allow the city to install a WiFi device, he didn’t hesitate.
“To us, it sounded like a win-win,” said Pierce. “It was good for the citizens and it was good for us to be able to provide a space for this WiFi hotspot.”
Through Covington Connect, a $2.5-million partnership with the city, WiFi devices are being installed on homes and buildings, creating zones of internet connectivity.
“We are trying to find ways to break down some of the access points that are preventing digital equity across our community,” said Assistant City Manager Bruce Applegate.
It wouldn’t take much time or cost a lot of money.
“I want to say our estimates are somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 to $15 a year,” said Applegate. “The flip side is if you’ve got this access point on your home or business and then you have direct access to free internet.”
Ninety-one percent of students in the Covington Independent School District qualify for free and reduced lunch.
“When you qualify for free or reduced lunch, it’s telling us that you have a hard time meeting your basic needs,” said Director of Community and Family Engagement Stacie Strotman. “They’re already struggling with day-to-day needs that their family has, so sometimes WiFi isn’t on the top of the list of things to provide for your family when you have to think about food and shelter and other basic needs.”
When schools were forced to shift to virtual learning in March, it became clear that wouldn’t be possible for every student.
“This is an equity issue,” said Strotman. “Our students need to have the same access and the same opportunities as their peers across the region.”
If you are interested in allowing the city to install a device on your home, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the neighborhoods they are currently targeting include Latonia-Rosedale, West Latonia, Peaselburg, Lewisburg, and Austinburg.