San Mateo County expands free WiFi access to East Palo Alto

in Community/Education

Over 4,000 residents of the Woodland Park Apartments in East Palo Alto, including 223 K-12 students attending local public school districts, are now connected to free public WiFi as part of San Mateo County’s Digital Inclusion project.

The partnership with property owner Sand Hill Property Company installed nearly 70 network access points to provide free County internet access to over 1,800 affordable, rent-controlled apartments. The newly expanded SMC Public WiFi network went live on Nov. 20.

In a county statement, resident Tomas Carrillo, a father of three children, said he looks forward to accessing the WiFi for distance learning.

SMC Public WiFi was launched in 2014 and currently provides free WiFi access at over 100 county locations, including parks, community centers and public spaces, with the aim of connecting underserved communities.

The Woodland Park Apartments project is part of an expansion of the SMC Public WiFi network, which was funded using part of a $6.3 million Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant. The expansion is targeting free WiFi access for distance learning to students in four school districts: Ravenswood City School District, La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District, Sequoia Union School District, and the Redwood City Elementary School District.

The expansion launched in August with the funding of broadband service subscriptions for a total of 650 qualifying students in the Ravenswood City School District and the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District.  Subsequent expansion projects include the further expansion of SMC Public WiFi network, and the establishment of the County’s first-of-its-kind “Park and Connect” mobile sites providing on-demand wireless service throughout the county.

“Internet access is essential for students to have a fair chance at an education,” said Gina Sudaria, superintendent of the Ravenswood City School District.

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