City establishes mobile Wi-Fi hotspots

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Kyle Oliver on Friday logs on to his tablet outside the Erna Fergusson Library as he tries out one of the 21 locations where the city is offering Wi-Fi access. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

With coronavirus prompting many local schools to put lessons online, the city of Albuquerque is offering a new way for families to reach the internet.

The city has created new Wi-Fi access points in parking lots around the community where residents can get online in what Mayor Tim Keller called the “social distancing comfort of their cars.”

Current locations for the “Wi-Fi on Wheels” program include select public libraries and some Albuquerque Public Schools campuses offering grab-and-go meals. The service will also be available at certain APS high schools distributing Chromebooks to students who need them.

Hours vary by location, but the library and city-owned sites will run 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.

Keller said New Mexico has one of the lowest broadband access rates in the country and this program is intended to help bridge the gap, keeping children and seniors in particular connected.

The city libraries, where citizens would ordinarily have free access to the internet through public computers, have been closed for weeks amid the pandemic.

“We’re trying to keep the safety net available for those in need, those who are the most vulnerable,” Keller said Thursday. “Part of that is propping up new things like this and understanding where these inequities are digitally.”

The program’s equipment costs totaled about $60,000, while recurring monthly expenses will be about $2,200, said Brian Osterloh, the city’s innovation and technology director.

The city plans to keep expanding the program with additional sites.

“We are intending to provide within a week or two enough connectivity to give each student who is unconnected one hour per day on average,” Osterloh said.

APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy said the program will be a tremendous asset for many students.

“We could not successfully transition from the traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms to distance learning without providing students Wi-Fi options to deliver learning resources,” she said in a statement.

A complete list of sites and hours is available online at cabq.gov/wifi.

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