By Bill Murray | February 4, 2021 at 7:49 AM EST – Updated February 4 at 7:49 AM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) -In the wake of the COVID pandemic and it’s effects on families and schools, New Hanover County continues it’s accelerated push to expand free public access WIFI.
Legend Hands is a 1 7 year old with a wish to join the Naval Academy. The COVID obstacles in place, to tear at his grades, are something he has to tear down every day.
“I’m usually on the computer, three or four hours” says Hands. “What most people don’t realize is not everyone has everything, so when we need something, it’s hard to do without”
The New Hanover County School District has given the Hands family a hotspot to stay connected, but it’s not like the lightening speeds of WIFI.
But if you check the signs, you’ll notice free WIFI is popping up more and more. New Hanover County, in partnership with the school district, and private enterprise, is trying to cast a wide net. CARES Act money is helping to break down the walls which breaks down barriers.
The current list of free WIFI locations includes:
- NHC Government Center – south parking lot & inside building during business hours (230 Government Center Drive)
- Health and Human Services parking lot (1650 Greenfield Street)
- Register of Deeds parking lot (320 Chestnut Street)
- Cape Fear Museum Park (corner of Market and 8th streets)
- Downtown Library Story Park (corner of 3rd and Chestnut streets)
- Northeast Public Library branch – parking area on left of building (1241 Military Cutoff Road)
- Pine Valley Library branch – parking area in front of the outdoor chessboard (3802 S College Road)
- Pleasure Island Library branch – parking area in front of entrance (1401 N Lake Park Blvd. #72, Carolina Beach)
- Environmental Management administration parking lot (3002 U.S. Highway 421 North)
- Castle Hayne Fire Department parking lot (5311 Castle Hayne Road)
- Porters Neck Fire Department parking lot (8310 Shiraz Way)
Check them out. The county’s network name is NCH_FreeWifi and does not require a password to access.
“Covid really gave us the impetus to get up and moving with our expansion” says Leslie Chaney with NHC Information and Technology Department. “In the months ahead we have plans to add truly outdoor spaces where there are no walls. We’re now going to add this same service to parks, like Long Leaf Park and others that are heavily used, so folks visiting our playgrounds or ball fields will be able to make use of the service as well.”
The available access is not only helping students. It’s important to remember this an issue with two components: accessibility and availability. New Hanover County found during COVID, some people laid off during the pandemic had a hard time filling out form for unemployment because they had no access.”
“It’s not surprising to me, with the economy taking a hit that the internet bill is one of the first to go, in some families” says Dawn Brinson with New Hanover County Schools. “In this day and age, a family should not have to decide between food, rent and access to the net for services and school work. Unfortunately, that’s happening.
New Hanover County Schools also has a list of available WIFI hotspots on it’s website. Most of them, in the parking lots of local schools.
Public Partnerships playing a big role in this equation. Live Oak Bank has been instrumental in it’s effort to help fund access in the district’s non profits, in places like local child care facilities, in an effort to keep people connected.
Legend Hands is hoping this year, to overcome the accessibility issues. The hotspot and wifi helping him get the work done to meet his goal.
“I just have to focus on myself and help other where I can” says Hands. “I just have to stay on positive track”
To learn more about New Hanover County’s WIFI initiative, click here.
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