Friday, December 14, 2012

Free Wi-Fi service begins today at Rosedale Ridge public housing in KCK

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 9:40 AM

Michael Liimatta and Connecting for Good have succeeded at Rosedale Ridge.
  • Michael Liimatta and Connecting for Good have succeeded at Rosedale Ridge.
In October, The Pitch reported on Connecting for Good, a local nonprofit that wanted to bring free wireless Internet access to the residents of Rosedale Ridge, a Section 8 housing complex in Kansas City, Kansas.

Michael Liimatta, Connecting for Good's president, had hoped to get Google Fiber to provide a connection that the residents of the eight buildings could share. Google, however, wasn't game because the arrangement would have violated its terms of service. But who needs Google Fiber? Or Time Warner, for that matter?

This morning, free Wi-Fi access went live at Rosedale Ridge, Connecting for Good announced. The organization did it by becoming its own Internet service provider, blasting a 100-megabit signal 3.8 miles from downtown KCMO to the apartments. A dish at Rosedale Ridge sends the signal to antennas that broadcast the signal to the residents.

The nonprofit held an outreach event this morning to tell residents about the project.

"They were intensely excited," Liimatta says. "We knew we would get a warm reception, but we were overwhelmed. And these were just the moms and single parents bringing their kids to the buses."

The receiver at Rosedale Ridge picks up a signal from downtown.
  • The receiver at Rosedale Ridge picks up a signal from downtown.
The network was largely funded by donated hardware and labor. Connecting for Good, Liimatta says, spent only $1,000 to set it up. And residents are already logging on.

"Just in the last 24 hours, we found 30 users in the complex who found it," he says. "The good news of it is, we know three of those (users) are Mac iOS, which we suspect of being the KCK-issued school computers."

One of the driving reasons Connecting for Good hoped to bring Wi-Fi access to Rosedale Ridge was to provide children Internet access for their homework.

"We've been told that of the 6,000 laptops that go home with KCK kids, probably less than a third have the Internet at home," Liimatta says.

The group is also offering residents computers for $50 (that can be paid for in installments) along with two Internet orientation courses to help spread computer and online literacy. So far, 20 residents have signed up.

Connecting for Good is using Rosedale Ridge to prove the concept. Next, they want to partner with other nonprofits and community groups that want to provide free Internet access to impoverished neighborhoods throughout the metro.

"I'm just on a high right now from being there with the people and their enthusiasm," Liimatta says. "Christmas came early for them."

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