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Pilot project to provide free Wi-Fi in central Iowa area

July 14, 2018

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A project being funded by Microsoft and federal grants will provide free internet to the Valley Junction area of West Des Moines.

The three-year pilot project will provide free Wi-Fi to area students, businesses and residents, the Des Moines Register reported .

The project is expected to launch in October. As part of the project, T-Mobile will also be providing portable wireless devices known as Mi-Fis to about 200 low-income students from Hillside Elementary over the next two years.

Project Consultant Dave Lyons said those students and their families are the heart of the public-private partnership.

“The parents who are parked outside the library after-hours or at the McDonald’s so their kids can download, research, complete and file homework,” he said. “That was the target persona.”

Lyons said the free public Wi-Fi aims to open up internet access, not replace existing services for families and businesses.

“If you’re a business and the internet is important to you and you have internet access already, don’t be dropping it because there’s free access,” Lyons said. “Make it available to your clients, your visitors, your shoppers, etc. But until you know what you need, do not give up your existing access.”

The public Wi-Fi is expected to meet or exceed the federal definition of broadband by boasting connection speeds of at least 25 megabits per second downstream and 3 megabits per second upstream.

Microsoft said it wants to ensure its employees also have an opportunity to give in the communities they live and work in, said Microsoft General Manager Mike Miles.

“And so on a regular basis, we reach out to the community to figure out what are some of the pressing needs,” he said. “Here, it happens to be broadband access.”

Microsoft is donating $150,000, and West Des Moines is using about $250,000 in funds from a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the project.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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