Yakima City Council to explore funding for free Wi-Fi in public parks

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UPDATE, 6 p.m. — Yakima City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to request the American Rescue Plan Act funds that Yakima County has made available for projects aimed at improving the lives of members from the community.

This funding will be used to pursue a project to bring free public Wi-Fi to several city parks.


YAKIMA, Wash. — The Yakima City Council is considering applying to the county for funding to help it pursue a project to bring free public Wi-Fi to several city parks.

The council is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on whether to apply for the American Rescue Plan Act funds that Yakima County has made available for projects aimed at improving the lives of community members.

City of Yakima spokesman Randy Beehler said that if the council decides to apply and is awarded those funds, the city will use that money to test the offer of free Wi-Fi in one or more several city parks – probably Miller Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Park or Gilbert Park. .

No final decision will be made Tuesday on the project itself, officials say

“The decision tonight is not whether to put WiFi in city parks or which parks to put them in, but rather whether or not to seek this funding from the county,” Beehler said.

City staff have already contacted a vendor for a quote and learned it would likely cost at least $5,000 to develop a proposal to add Wi-Fi to all three parks.

“Right now, we’re estimating an initial cost of $50,000 to $60,000. About 1/3 of this amount is for the technical equipment and internet service required, the rest is used to cover electrical and other expenses. Additionally, we estimate an ongoing annual equipment replacement fund of $3,500 to $5,000,” city staff said in a report provided to council members.

Beehler said the city had been discussing the possibility of providing internet in local parks for several years, but decided to look into it more seriously in the past two months.

“The city of Yakima generally has good WiFi coverage, but there are places in the city that don’t have very good coverage,” Beehler said.

Free public WiFi in Yakima Parks could help low-income areas access high-speed internet

According to the report, city staff studied existing Internet coverage in the city and, using the WiFi app, determined that Yakima residents currently have access to more than 200 free or funded WiFi networks. the crowd.

With this in mind, staff reviewed each of the city’s 41 parks to determine if they would be suitable options for testing free internet access.

City staff determined that some of the larger parks like Randall Park and Kiwanis Park were not ideal because it would be difficult to provide a connection that would cover the entire area. Others already had public Wi-Fi nearby.

Beehler said the best options for a pilot boil down to Miller Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Park and Gilbert Park — places where people potentially have trouble finding internet access in general or where it’s unlikely they find a strong connection.

“A few of the parks that are suggested to be these test sites for WiFi in parks are in some of our low-income areas and it’s difficult in those areas to get access to high-speed WiFi in particular” , Beehler said.

City staff note potential security issues and recommend other options for providing public WiFi access

Beehler said the city will need to consider security issues that can arise from providing a public internet connection, such as the network being more susceptible to hacking and people being able to use it to access inappropriate information.

“If this service is provided by a public entity such as the municipal government, there are certain limitations as to the limitations that can be placed on the type of content accessible through this network,” Beehler said.

City staff recommended that if council decides providing public Wi-Fi is a necessity, they should instead consider providing it at community centers, such as:

  • Henry Beauchamp Jr Community Center
  • Washington Community Fruit Center
  • Harman Center

In the report, city staff said using existing community centers would be “a more cost-effective route that provides the means to monitor usage and potentially reduce liability.”

Staff said they don’t know if community centers would be interested in providing the service, and they don’t have an estimate of the cost of providing WiFi there rather than local parks.

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