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New Wi-Fi hotspots will help West End students, workers stay online

Posted at 5:49 PM, Nov 25, 2020

CINCINNATI — The COVID-19 pandemic is reaching its highest-ever peaks in the United States, forcing many local schools and businesses to retreat into digital space for the winter. Alexis Kidd found some of their students — and some employees — on her doorstep.

Kidd, the executive director of Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses, said the West End neighborhood house has become one of the only reliable sources of internet access for many in the neighborhood.

“Cincinnati Public Schools has knocked that out for a lot of families,” she said, referring to the district’s partnership with the internet provider Cincinnati Bell. “But we have other families who do not attend CPS schools who come here and say, ‘Well, can my kid sit? Can we use your internet?’”

Although the need has been severe, Kidd said she was thankful to see people felt comfortable asking her organization for help. That helped her understand the problem and figure out where to start.

And she came up with a solution that will allow West Enders without consistent internet access at home to find it in their community.

Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses is working with Cincinnati Bell to put 10 Wi-Fi hotspots in West End parks, housing developments and businesses. Each hotspot will be able to serve up to 200 devices at the same time.

“We’re just really trying to make it where it’s attainable for residents who are vulnerable,” she said.

Kidd doesn’t know how soon the equipment will be installed but said her organization is working with Cincinnati Bell on a timeline. Funding will come largely from community groups such as St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, LISC Greater Cincinnati and Bethesda Inc.; additional funds were provided by Hamilton County through the CARES Act.

It’s enough money to keep the boxes running long after they’re installed, according to Kidd.

“That way, now, they don’t have to sit on our steps,” she said. “They can actually sit in a park, stay on their own front porches.”