Feb 22, 2014
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wifi5A plan to install free WiFi for residents of the Iron Triangle neighborhood, along with refurbished computers and computer literacy training, is ready to be heard by city and county officials.

Building Blocks for Kids (BBK), a group dedicated to improving the lives of low-income Iron Triangle residents, studied the idea of providing Internet access and offered recommendations that include establishing WiFi hotspots throughout the neighborhood.

The study is slated to be presented at the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday morning and also the Richmond City Council at night. At 2 p.m., a WiFi connection demonstration is scheduled to take place at 217 Bissell Ave., the site of the first home to be connected.

More than 400 families living in the neighborhood would have free access. BBK has reportedly partnered with Internet Archive, a nonprofit that is building a massive digital library, on providing broadband frequency to Iron Triangle residents.

Residents will have access to WiFi “at an impressive 12-16 megabits per second,” BBK representatives said.

The plan also includes outfitting neighborhood elementary schools with public computer centers that would be open to all community members, enhancing the computer center at Richmond Public Library and establishing training sites.

City staff has already piloted the infrastructure for free Internet access in the area, and grant funding has reportedly been identified.

According to the BBK’s 58-page report on the topic, a third of residents lack Internet access at home compared to 80-percent in all of the Bay Area, and two of five residents don’t own a working computer.

Providing Internet access and computer training will improve the healths of neighborhood families, BBK said.

“We live in a time when access to information, academic success, economic advancement, and participation in civic life increasingly require technological competence,” the report said. “Information technologies are powerful and necessary tools for finding information about jobs, communicating with schools and health professionals, and staying connected to the broader world.”

City Council is scheduled to discuss the report Tuesday.


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.