Ten Grand Rapids parks now have free public Wi-Fi access thanks to a pilot program supported by CARES Act funding.
The Network in a Box (NIB) program aims to bridge the digital divide in Grand Rapids that widened during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing year-round outdoor internet access.
The parks were selected based on heavy event use, community need and existing infrastructure like pavilions and community gyms that NIB devices could easily attach to. The selected parks include:
- Ah-Nab-Awen Park (220 Front Ave. NW)
- Belknap Park (30 Coldbrook St. NE)
- Briggs Park (350 Knapp St. NE)
- Fish Ladder Park (606 Front Ave. NW)
- Garfield Park (2111 Madison Ave. SE)
- MacKay-Jaycees Park (2531 Kalamazoo Ave. SE)
- Martin Luther King Park (900 Fuller Ave. SE)
- Richmond Park (1101 Richmond St. NW)
- Riverside Park (2001 Monroe Ave. NE)
- Roosevelt Park (739 Van Raalte Drive SW)
The NIB hotspots have a range of approximately 900 feet and can support between 30 and 50 devices at one time depending on usage. Content access is filtered using the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) guidelines. To connect, users need to select the network when within range of the NIB. No login is required to use the network.
“This pilot program is an important step toward ensuring a more connected community in a way that’s free and accessible to residents across our city,” said David Marquardt, the city’s parks and recreation director. “Park visitors can now work, learn and communicate with others while also enjoying the natural beauty of Grand Rapids.”
Kent County offered NIB equipment purchase and installation to local townships and cities. The program currently is funded through December. Following the pilot period, the city will determine whether to continue the program based on funding availability, usage and community support.