More than $500,000 is headed to five Hamilton County communities for free public WiFi. County officials developed the program with federal Community Development Block Grants.
The funds will be used to install 175 internet access points in Cheviot, Deer Park, Lincoln Heights, Lockland, and Mt. Healthy.
Lincoln Heights Council Member Linda Childs-Jeter inspired the grant program after going to County Commissioner Alicia Reece to ask for help.
"Thank you for the $150,000 and more to come, I hope," Childs-Jeter said. "We are going to make Lincoln Heights 100% smart."
County commissioners say a much larger investment in WiFi is likely, with $10 million tentatively slotted for that purpose from the American Rescue Plan. The board hasn't finalized a spending plan for the $158 million in stimulus.
Reece says she's committed to making Hamilton County a "smart county."
"No matter what your income, no matter what your background, no matter if you are from a big city, a small city, a village or a township, you must be connected through broadband and WiFi," Reece said.
Lincoln Heights Elementary principal Dawn Bailey says remote learning during the pandemic highlighted inequality in the community, and she's excited to welcome kids back to school in August.
"Knowing all that we know about technology, and now solving some of the problems about the divide at home: the WiFi, the spotty WiFi, the sometimes on and sometimes off WiFi," Bailey said.
Lincoln Heights will install 64 internet access points across all public spaces, including Serenity Park, the Municipal Building, and Memorial Athletic Field.
Each jurisdiction is also using local funding for the projects, and had to commit to providing at least 36 months of internet access in order to receive a grant.
More details about each recipient:
Cheviot: $29,914 for 11 access points: two at Harvest Home Park, one at the Cheviot Fieldhouse, eight in the central business district on Harrison Avenue from City Hall to the eastern border with Westwood. The Harrison Ave. parking lot where WestSide Market is held will also be included in the coverage area. This will be the first installation of public WiFi in Cheviot.
Deer Park: $90,000 for 22 access points along the newly improved Blue Ash Road corridor, as well as a section of Galbraith and Plainfield, creating a WiFi "loop" within these main city corridors. Chamberlain Park and the community center will also be served by this project. This will be the first installation of public WiFi in Deer Park.
Lincoln Heights: $150,000 for 64 access points located in all public spaces, including Serenity Park, the Municipal Building, and the Memorial Athletic Field. It will be the first phase of a multi-phased project to bring public WiFi to all of the Village. It will be the first installation of public WiFi in Lincoln Heights.
Lockland: $100,000 for 30 access points throughout the Village on local-government-owned properties, businesses, non-profits, school-owned properties, local churches, and throughout residential neighborhoods. This will continue the installation of free, public WiFi to the Village; 15 access points were installed in 2020.
Mt. Healthy: $150,000 for 48 access points along the business district located just north of Ronald Reagan Hwy to Adams Avenue, as well as covering the park district and two largest apartment complexes in which the majority of children living attend Mt. Healthy City Schools. This will be the first installation of public WiFi in Mt. Healthy.