Free Wi-Fi comes to Downtown Detroit parks, public spaces

New program to help bridge digital divide in Detroit

DETROIT – Parks and public spaces in Downtown Detroit now have access to free high-speed internet.

The Downtown Detroit Partnership announced Wednesday that free Wi-Fi is now available at Downtown Detroit parks and public spaces in an effort to help bridge the digital divide among city residents.

A significant number of Detroit households lack access to an internet connection, which in turn inhibits residents’ opportunities to complete daily tasks, stay informed, work, study and more. Officials say that about 63 percent of Detroit’s low-income households “lack a home internet connection compared to 35 percent of U.S. homes across the country.”

The new internet initiative will first launch at five Detroit parks: Campus Martius Park, Cadillac Square, Capitol Park, Grand Circus Park and The Woodward Esplanade. Users will be able to access the “Detroit Parks” network on any device without a password, and can make use of internet speeds of up to 10 GB.

“Our parks have always played a vital role in bringing people together and the pandemic only reinforced the role of public spaces,” said Robert Gregory, chief planning and public spaces officer for DDP. “The new internet network brings our work to the next level, helping build digital equity by reducing barriers for community members and downtown Detroit residents without access, as well as affording greater ease and flexibility to visitors and small business partners across the parks.”

Officials said the program was up and running Wednesday afternoon.

“With more than 250+ programming and event partners, 300 market vendors and 75+ mobile food businesses that participate each year in DDP’s public spaces, this business eco-system can now take advantage of high-speed internet as a free amenity of the parks,” a DDP press release reads Wednesday. “With more online orders, deliveries and curbside pickups expected in 2021, a dedicated network is critically important to business owners and patrons alike.”

Related: How Detroit public schools are bridging the digital divide amid pandemic (July 2020)

EXPLAINER: What Biden’s new $100B plan for broadband means (AP)

The problems with U.S. broadband networks have been obvious for years. Service costs more than in many other rich nations, it still doesn’t reach tens of millions of Americans and the companies that provide it don’t face much competition.

Now the Biden administration is promising to do something about all of those issues as part of its proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure package. The plan, which would devote $100 billion to get all Americans connected, is more idea than policy and lacks a lot of important detail.

But it sketches out a striking new vision of activist government measures intended to improve high-speed internet service, following decades in which the government has largely left the job to private companies.

Biden’s proposal is to spend $100 billion to “future-proof” broadband as part of an eight-year infrastructure plan, calling high-speed connections “the new electricity” that’s now a necessity for all Americans. (For history buffs, that’s a reference to the Rural Electrification Act — Depression-era legislation that sped the extension of power lines to farms and rural communities.)

Learn why the plan is important here.

About the Author: