Lexington announces free downtown, East End wi-fi

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Lexington officials held a news conference this morning to announce the partial activation of a planned broadband wi-fi expansion into the downtown, East End and Cardinal Valley.

“Lexington Public” is the name of the new network, which should be accessible as of Monday. Several people in the downtown confirm that it is working, though not without some glitches
The $1.6 million program, made possible by the combination of a $500,000 Knight Foundation grant with law enforcement grants from state and federal sources, will turn on free wifi for an area that includes downtown West to Rupp Arena, north four blocks from Main Street and south four blocks from Main Street.
This is the first step to helping close what is often called the “digital divide” — the separation of people from economic and government activity because of the factors of cost, device, relevance and training in computer use. The Urban League, which operates a computer training program at DeWeese Street, is part of the plan and will be offering training in Internet and computer use for participants.

According to a news release from LFUCG, training has already started, according to David Cozart, Urban League Connect Your Community program administrator. Residents in the East End and other citizens are being trained by the Urban League or through Connect Kentucky, which is funded through the Kentucky Housing Corp. The Urban League committed to train 1,750 residents, the LFUCG release says.
Connect Kentucky focuses on new homeowners in the redeveloped Bluegrass Aspendale area but the training from the Urban League includes citizens from other areas.

Some training is offered at the community center at the William Wells Elementary School, where Monday’s news conference was held. Mayor Jim Newberry and several law enforcement leaders were on hand for the announcement.

Lexmark has donated computers and printers for certain residents involved in the program.

The local program appears to be a microcosmic implementation of several of the main points of The National Broadband Plan, released in March 2010, which outlines the Federal Communications Commission’s intention to provide such device and broadband network assistance to Americans nationwide in an unprecedented push to drastically increase the U.S. broadband up-down rate, access and use by 2012.
The city had hoped, as late as a news conference in early January 2010, to be able to make the entire network operational by mid-summer 2010, but Monday’s announcement indicates that only the downtown and East End portion of the signal is hot.
The entire plan includes an increased capability for the in-vehicle broadband for local police, fire and rescue workers and an expansion to provide free broadband to underserved clients in Cardinal Valley, in addition to those in the downtown and East End.
ACE has reported on the plan since February 2009, when it was first announced, with the city saying at that time it hoped to have the network up by summer 2009.
For the past few weeks, a signal called “Lexington Public” has been visible as an available network in the downtown area, though not always functional.
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