So many free public WiFi spots have been installed throughout San Mateo County during the COVID-19 pandemic that County officials launched an online hub to help residents locate them.
The new hub shows users the nearest free and safe public WiFi access points, which can often be found at libraries, schools, County-sponsored access points and other locations countywide. Google Maps helps direct users to the nearest access point.
Amid the pandemic, the County has rapidly expanded its SMC Public WiFi network using federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant funding to assist underserved students and job seekers who lack access to internet access. Last month, the program reached the North Fair Oaks and Stambaugh Heller neighborhoods of Redwood City, where nearly 100 WiFi access points have been mounted on streetlight poles in order to provide free wireless internet access to 665 K-12 students and to thousands of residents and community members within the neighborhoods.
While the effort to connect underserved County residents has picked up steam since the start of the pandemic, it actually launched back in 2014 as part of the County’s Digital Equity Portal.
“Creating digital equity and ensuring access to the internet is critical to our quality of life for everyone in the community — especially during the pandemic,” County Chief Information Officer Jon Walton said in a statement. “From our coast to our more urban areas, we have leveraged data, mapping, and innovative technology to connect thousands of San Mateo County students, families, and small businesses to the internet.
With the pandemic spurring added urgency, the County has added more than 230 SMC Public WiFi access points and extended the public WiFi network at 12 public over a six-month period in 2020.