Parking lots become links to internet connectivity

From the parking lots of libraries, to sports fields, to schools — internet connectivity is increasing around the state to support those who need it during extended closures caused by the pandemic.

“What I’m finding is that this is one of the reasons why we all love to live in the community that we do, because so many people are looking for a way to support each other,” said Shelly Cecchett, facility chair for DE Turf Sports Complex. “I mean, I think we’re all looking for ways to support each other. We absolutely wanted to do our part.”

For their part, offering free Wi-Fi at the sports complex came as an idea from Kent County Commissioner Jody Sweeney, Ms. Cecchett said.

Wi-Fi is available in the parking lot for free, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. using the network “DE Turf Free WiFi.”

“We are eager to get our doors back open and get kids back on our fields, but until then we saw that this was our small part that we could do to support our community,” she said.

DE Turf is one of several that have begun opening Wi-Fi networks to the public across the state.

Libraries boosted their access so community members can go to their local library and connect their devices to the universal ‘Library-Outdoors’ broadcast signal.

Internet access will be available 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily until further notice. It is provided as a community service through a partnership among the Sussex County Department of Libraries, Delaware Division of Libraries and each facility.

“Like electricity, water or the telephone, broadband access is a critical service, especially now, for so many people who are under Delaware’s ‘stay-at-home’ order and having to work or study remotely,” said Sussex County Librarian Kathy Graybeal. “Libraries historically have been centers of knowledge and culture in their communities. Despite being closed right now because of the pandemic, we can still fulfill that fundamental role by connecting citizens who don’t have internet at home so they can work, learn, apply for a job or unemployment benefits, or simply keep up on the latest pandemic news. We’re proud to offer that link.”

School districts have likewise stepped in to fill the gap. Milford School District opened locations across the district, including: the bus platform behind Milford Central Academy, the side parking lot of Milford Central Academy (across from the tennis courts), parking spaces adjacent to the Milford High School modular classrooms, the back circle of Lulu Ross Elementary School accessed from Bridgeham Avenue, the bus platform behind LuLu Ross and Mispillion Elementary Schools and the right-hand visitor parking spots at Morris Early Childhood Center accessed by the main entrance.

“[It’s] been great for some of our families and students to utilize,” said Superintendent Kevin Dickerson at a school board meeting Monday. “We’re trying to get out into the communities a little more, as far as trying to have hot spots off our grounds. We’ve been successful in a couple of places.”

He noted places like the library in Milford and DE Turf, and added they’re looking to increase that number.

“That way we can have more broad access across our district as far as connectivity for the Wi-Fi access,” he said.

Indian River School District also started Wi-Fi service at Sussex Central High School, Indian River High School, Phillip C. Showell Elementary School and Georgetown Elementary School.

The drive-up Wi-Fi is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Users must stay in their vehicles and park within the designated area of the parking lots while accessing the internet.

Other districts are following suit; Smyrna School District has arranged to “purchase extra Wi-Fi access at three schools so that families may park in the lots and use their devices,” Superintendent Patrik Williams said. Appoquinimink School District is utilizing MiFi devices — which are portable Wi-Fi hot spots — to help clear up internet connectivity issues for the remaining families in need.

In New Castle County, 22 locations now boast free drive-thru Wi-Fi hot spots through partnerships with libraries, the University of Delaware, Verizon, Assurance Media, Cisco-Meraki and the New Castle County Information Systems and Public Works departments.

The New Castle County hot spot locations include: Banning Park Maintenance Base, Bear Library, Claymont Library, Hockessin PAL Center, Police Academy, Government Center, Garfield PAL, EMS 5 – Middletown, Absalom Jones, Kirkwood Library, Gilliam Building, Hockessin Library, Newark Free Library, North Wilmington Branch Library, Woodlawn Library, Elsmere Public Library, Glasgow Park – Frasier House, Route 9 Library, Brandywine Hundred Library, Delaware City Library, Corbit-Calloway Library, and New Castle Public Library.

“We are seeing solid usage data across most of our Wi-Fi hot spot locations, so we decided to add more opportunity to those who need to access broadband internet,” New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer said in a prepared statement. “As we head into our fifth week of quarantine, it’s important we continue to offer basic necessity like Wi-Fi is a growing necessity for job search, for schoolwork, and for maintaining communication with family and friends.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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