WILSON — Calvin E. Krueger Park will become a virtual hotspot for broadband width-challenged students and professionals that the village hopes to keep in the area.
The hot-spot, set to start over the weekend, was created through an effort of the Niagara Orleans Regional Alliance to close the rural broadband gap. The alliance has been working with RTO Wireless and Microsoft to create public wi-fi hotspots in rural towns in both counties.
“It’s basically right on the lake and (the equipment) is going to be in our DPW shed,” Wilson Mayor Arthur Lawson said of the new hot-spot. “The material and service that was put in was donated by Microsoft.”
That donation is a great gift to residents who have lacked internet access, an increasingly vital good in today's world, Lawson said.
“I think we’re going to be able to help everyone," he said. "We’re talking about working professionals who have to work at home. I know in my job, I couldn’t get access half of the time. Now, at least we have an opportunity where professionals can go to that area, they can download their work, then go back and do their work at their home if they can’t go to their office. It’s an internet opportunity for the professionals, the young professionals.”
Families with students will benefit from the hotspot, too, Lawson said, observing that a lack of access to the internet can halt students' progress in the Wilson school district.
“I know in other areas they’re also struggling with the internet system; it’s almost an internet poverty,” he said. “The school districts have their backs to the wall trying to figure out, ‘How are we going to service our students in such a wide area?’ When you talk about the income levels, and internet poverty, I think what this allows for is students who have virtual learning problems to go there, as well.”
The hotspot may also facilitate residents' use of telemedicine, Lawson suggested. During the COVID-19 epidemic, in-person visits to healthcare providers have been limited and many providers have turned to telemedicine — "seeing" patients online — in lieu.
“I was hoping to help those three areas," Lawson said. "It’s not going to be an all inclusive solution, but ... it’s a step in the right direction and just the start of what we can do.”
In six months, the village has the option of buying a five-year license from Microsoft for $450.
“That’s almost a no brainer,” Lawson said.
According to the mayor, other plans for Calvin E. Krueger Park include making it the starting point of a bike trail that will go toward the Wilson Central School campus, then into the business district and connect to Wilson Tuscarora State Park.