By Sarah Marilyn
Grand Rapids Community College students who are looking to take a break from noisy roommates, crowded libraries, and dark halls can now take advantage of the free Wi-Fi available at parks surrounding the campus.
The Network in a Box (NIB) program, which will provide year-round outdoor internet access, is being funded by the CARES Act and aims to bridge the digital divide that widened in the city during the pandemic.
As it warms up and students venture outside for studying and sunshine, they can connect to the Wi-Fi by selecting the network. No login is required to use the network. To protect all users, public internet access is filtered using the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) guidelines in an effort to keep the parks safe.
“There are really two things I feel like we’ve learned with… this pandemic that we’re operating in, and the first is that there’s a great deal of connectivity that’s needed for learning, for making appointments, for healthcare reasons, for work,” said David Marquardt, the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Director. “The second thing I think we’ve learned is that there’s a great deal of need for restoring one’s personal mental and physical health. Through this pilot program, we hope to provide connectivity to residents that may not otherwise have access to it. If they don’t have connectivity at their home, parks can now be a place that they can utilize that access.”
The Network in a Box program aims to bridge the digital divide in Grand Rapids that widened during the pandemic by providing year-round outdoor internet access. The NIB hotspots have a range of approximately 900 feet and can support up to 50 devices at one time. The parks were selected based on heavy event use, community needs and existing infrastructure like pavilions and community gyms that NIB devices could easily attach to.
They have been installed at the following parks:
- Ah-Nab-Awen Park (220 Front Ave. NW)
- Belknap Park (30 Coldbrook St. NE)
- Briggs Park (350 Knapp St. NE)
- Fish Ladder Park (606 Front Ave. NW)
- Garfield Park (2111 Madison Ave. SE)
- MacKay-Jaycees Park (2531 Kalamazoo Ave. SE)
- Martin Luther King Park (900 Fuller Ave. SE)
- Richmond Park (1101 Richmond St. NW)
- Riverside Park (2001 Monroe Ave. NE)
- Roosevelt Park (739 Van Raalte Dr. SW)