124 ‘hotspots’ expand free Wi-Fi access

Wi-Fi connectivity and the strength of the network signal depend upon a number of geographic and construction factors.

Completed Covington Connect initiative eroding ‘digital divide’ 

COVINGTON, Ky. – Thousands more Covington families have free access to the Internet, courtesy of the all-but-completed “Covington Connect” initiative whose goal is to smash the digital divide in much of the city.
Cincinnati Bell, working with the City of Covington, is completing the installation of 124 strategically placed Wi-Fi Access Points – aka “hotspots.” Each device creates a “zone of connectivity” of varying size offering free public Wi-Fi to the streets and houses located around it.
Previously completed pieces of the multi-pronged Covington Connect initiative include the distribution of 1,000 free computers and the installation of free Wi-Fi for more than 600 apartments in the City Heights and Latonia Terrace housing complexes.
A major goal of the initiative is to support distance learning for students at Covington’s schools during the pandemic, but officials said the impact of wider access to the internet will be felt across a wide spectrum of societal interaction – from health-care access to employment to housing – for generations to come.
“This has been a fantastic partnership that, quite simply, will strengthen the quality of life of literally thousands of families,” Covington Mayor Joe Meyer said. “Internet access is critical – people go online to access information, shop, pay rent, apply for a job, reserve a library book, attend a training seminar, see a doctor, and perform a myriad other tasks.”
The “hotspots” offering free Cincinnati Bell Wi-Fi are located throughout the city but are concentrated in eight neighborhoods – Eastside, Helentown, Austinburg, Peaselburg, Levassor Park, Lewisburg, Latonia, and West Covington – in order to reach the largest concentration of students.
Wi-Fi connectivity and the strength of the network signal depend upon a number of geographic and construction factors.
See this FLIER for instructions on how to register and connect to the network. (Enable Wi-Fi and select “_Covington Connect” from the list of available Wi-Fi networks.) The free registration will require entering an email address and answering a couple of basic demographic questions. 
“Cincinnati Bell is proud to be part of the Covington Connect initiative,” said Tom Simpson, Chief Operating Officer of Cincinnati Bell Inc. “Internet connectivity is mission-critical to access jobs, educational opportunities, and health-care resources. Today’s announcement is another important step toward improving digital equity in Covington.”
The new system is already being used: According to the company, more than 600 people have signed on to Covington Connect 8,000 times in the past 30 days, an average of 13 times each. The average Wi-Fi session was approximately 50 minutes.
Those numbers are expected to grow exponentially with the completed installation of the hotspot devices and publicity.
About Covington Connect
The initiative was announced July 8 during a news conference that included the City, Cincinnati Bell, the Housing Authority of Covington (HAC), Covington Independent Public Schools, Renaissance Covington, local computer firms Blair Technology Group and ReGadget, and Comp-U-Dopt, a Houston-based non-profit organization.
All told, the partners’ investment in the project was estimated at well over $2.5 million.
Implementation moved forward the last six months along several tracks:
  • The “hotspot” part of the initiative, which involved recruiting homeowners and businesses to allow the wireless access devices to be attached to the sides of their buildings. The locations were chosen to “capture” as many families of schoolchildren as possible.
  • Complimentary internet service installed in public housing complexes in September under Cincinnati Bell’s contract with the housing authority.
  • The distribution of 1,000 free, refurbished computers at six events under a partnership involving two Latonia-based computer firms – Blair Technology Group and ReGadget – and Comp-U-Dopt, a Houston non-profit in charge of fund-raising. The computer firms share owners and management and are national leaders in refurbishing Microsoft products. 

City officials stressed the “rising tide lifts all boats” aspect of Covington Connect. 

“We’re continuing to work with partners like Cincinnati Bell to create a 21st Century “smart” city, but we need to make sure that it is one in which all residents are presented opportunities, not just a few,” City Manager David Johnston said. “This will move us further on the road to digital equity, and we look forward to seeing its impact not only on individual Covington families but also on the economic health of the city as a whole.”