The City of Wichita is trying to bridge the digital divide with free hotspots

Posted: Updated:
Danielle Steiner checks out the first free hotspot from the City of Wichita at Colvin Neighborhood Resource Center on Thursday, February 7th, 2019. Danielle Steiner checks out the first free hotspot from the City of Wichita at Colvin Neighborhood Resource Center on Thursday, February 7th, 2019.
The TMobile hotspots stacked up in a cupboard at Colvin Neighborhood Resource Center, waiting to be checked out, on Thursday, February 7th, 2019. The TMobile hotspots stacked up in a cupboard at Colvin Neighborhood Resource Center, waiting to be checked out, on Thursday, February 7th, 2019.
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

The mayor announced a two month trial of the program, beginning Thursday, February 7th.  Atwater Neighborhood Resource Center has 20 of the hotspots available.  The Colvin Resource Center has the other 20.

"Very useful," said Danielle Steiner, who visits the Colvin Neighborhood Resource Center three or four times a week to use their computers.  "Before I got my job, I would come in and put in applications."

She doesn't have internet access at home, nor do most of her neighbors. 

"We know we have almost 26% of our homes that don't have access to the internet," said Mayor Jeff Longwell to gathered reporters at his weekly media briefing. 

Which is why the city is making these Wi-Fi hotspots available for checkout.   Anyone 18 years or older, with a government ID, and a stable address can take one home for up to two weeks.

"A well informed, connected  citizenry will have a direct impact on our growing economy and helping us build our infrastructure," Longwell said about why the city decided to go with the trial program.

At the Colvin Resource Center workers like Merary Treviño were excited about the project.

"I'm ready for these to go!  I'm ready for these to launch."

It didn't take long for the first hotspot to head out the door.  Danielle showed up, ready to try her internet surfing at home.

She says she can see all sorts of uses for it.  But, she adds, the biggest advantages will be for students trying to get ahead in school and grown-ups trying to find jobs.

"When I was looking for a job, there was like maybe four, out of all the jobs that I applied to, maybe four that had paper applications anymore," she said.  All the rest required an online application.

T-Mobile donated the hotspots, a total of 40 of them for now, as well as two months free, unlimited data service.  They will come with some basic filters, the mayor said.

"These hotspots will have Child Internet Privacy Act filtering enabled on them, which will prevent access to adult content, gambling, and violence," he said.

If they prove popular enough, the city can continue the project at a cost of $28.70 a month per hotspot and expand it to other locations.

Check out these photos from across KAKEland snapped by our viewers, staff and local officials. Do you have pictures to share with us? Email them to news@kake.com.

MORE SLIDESHOWS HERE