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Drive-in WiFi hotspots offer online access to Delaware’s disconnected

New public WiFi transmitters have been installed here at the Garfield Park Police Athletic League building and other facilities in New Castle County to provide free internet to residents who don't have access. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

New public WiFi transmitters have been installed here at the Garfield Park Police Athletic League building and other facilities in New Castle County to provide free internet to residents who don't have access. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

New Castle County is offering WiFi access outside a number of county facilities for people who don’t have an internet connection at home.

Internet access has become a vital link during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing students to continue learning remotely and giving office employees the option of working from home. 

But not everyone can get online at home. Others have limited data plans that restrict how much time they can spend on the internet.

“Making sure everyone has access becomes vitally important and now it’s necessary to get a basic education,” said County Executive Matt Meyer.

On Monday, Meyer unveiled a new WiFi hotspot at the Garfield Park Police Athletic League building in New Castle. It’s one of eight spots available for the public right now. More are planned in the near future, including sites in Wilmington. 

The hotspots are re-engineered portions of a network originally designed to help work crews access the county network.

“Within seven days, we put a plan together. We met, we engineered it,” said Mike Hojnicki, chief of technology and administrative services for the county.

Meyer said the idea was delayed briefly last week over concerns the hotspots would draw groups of people in violation of social distancing requirements in the state.

“We have serious concern about encouraging anyone to come outside,” Meyer said. “So just like at our playgrounds and basketball courts, if there are gatherings, if this causes people to come, then we’ll shut it down right away.”

Meyer said families are welcome to log on using the new WiFi spots, but added everyone should stay inside their cars and not get too close to others.

Last week, workers removed basketball rims from backboards at courts at the county-run regional parks because players were gathering for pick-up games. Workers also put up fences to block access to playgrounds where children were coming in close contact.

WiFi hotspots are available on Monday at the following locations:

  • NCC Government Center (87 Reads Way, New Castle, 19720)
  • NCC Gilliam Building (77 Reads Way, New Castle, 19720)
  • Garfield Park PAL (26 Karlyn Drive, New Castle, 19720)
  • Banning Park Maintenance Base (102 Middleboro Road, Wilmington, 19804)
  • Kimberton Police Academy (201 Kimberton Drive, Newark, 19713)
  • EMS Base 5 Parking Lot (North Broad Street, Middletown, 19709)
  • Kirkwood Library (6000 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 19808)
  • Bear Library rear parking lot (101 Governors Place, Bear, 19701)

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