Public WiFi access nearly complete at West Valley City parksNov 02, 2020 04:18PM ● By Darrell Kirby
By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]
In 2016, West Valley City launched a project to provide free high-speed internet access at all of its parks, an initiative called West Valley City Connect.
Today, that effort is nearly complete.
With the exception of a couple of parks, West Valley, in partnership with UTOPIA, which has laid fiber optic cable throughout the city, now offers free WiFi at 27 parks.
UTOPIA lines deliver the internet and city-installed WiFi access points at the parks to make it available to the public. “West Valley has been kind of ahead of the game on this” compared to similar projects in other cities, said UTOPIA Executive Director Roger Timmerman.
UTOPIA is a consortium of 16 cities in northern Utah, including West Valley, that help fund the construction and maintenance of a high-speed internet network to deliver internet services to residents and businesses. The actual internet service comes from several private internet service providers.
He says the initial purpose of internet access at the parks was just to make it available, but it has advanced beyond that in the last four years. “The recent effort is to make it kind of a lifeline service. With coronavirus, it’s been really hard on a lot of households where they may not have broadband access” due to lack of availability or the economic hardships of the pandemic.
Some people could find it especially vital to participate in distance learning for schools or to work remotely.
Timmerman says the internet speeds are more than sufficient to handle the number of people logged on at any given time. “We’re bringing the type of connectivity that normally large businesses and enterprises would pay enormous amounts of money for.”
WiFi at some of the larger recreation areas like Centennial Park offer up to 10 gigabytes of data at any given time. “That can support thousands of users,” Timmerman said.
The WiFi signal is strongest near the access points, which are usually placed in areas of the parks where most people gather, such as playgrounds and pavilions. The connection becomes spottier in the far reaches of large parks like Centennial.
Timmerman says fiber optic cables in the parks have also allowed for the installation of air quality sensors which send data through the lines to those who monitor that type of information and make it publicly available through websites and mobile apps.
He says the process of making West Valley residents and visitors aware of free WiFi in city parks is ongoing. “There’s more that needs to be done.”
WiFi availability in public parks in the U.S. is growing. Even the National Park Service offers internet access at 140 of its sites across the country.