Hopewell, Va., to Expand Internet Access to Underserved Areas

Thanks to a $3.95 million grant from the state, city officials are hoping to launch a public Wi-Fi project that will expand citywide broadband access, especially in public and affordable housing.

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(TNS) — City officials said Wednesday they have received a $3.95 million grant from the state to launch its Public Wi-Fi Project, an initiative that will pay for broadband access citywide, particularly in the public- and affordable-housing communities.

With the money, Hopewell will build up a wireless network in phases, according to a statement from the city. The network will reach more than 1,600 residences in seven subsidized and unsubsidized areas — Freedman Point, Kippax Place, Davisville/Bland Court, Thomas Rolfe, Summit Apartments, Piper Square and Hopewell Heights. The goal is to increase Wi-Fi access to lower-income families, many of whom have students in the school system that are unable to complete online studies.

Money for the grant comes from Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding specifically earmarked for Hopewell by the Northam administration.

“Access to high-speed Internet is essential for the academic success of our children and provides a virtual connection for residents and businesses to the world. This project will kick-start the city’s effort to close the digital divide, and lay the foundation for future places in our journey to becoming a digital city.” city manager John M. Altman Jr. said in the announcement.

According to the plan, Hopewell will create broadband-access points by installing antennas and switches at strategic locations across town. While those are being installed, the city's information technology department will build the network's infrastructure and install cybersecurity measures such as firewalls.

City officials said the network will also saturate Hopewell with enough broadband to allow immediate access to information for first-responders and other emergency personnel to take more timely action.

Dr. Concetta Manker, Hopewell's IT director, said the project funding means Hopewell "is one step closer to becoming a smart city.

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