Behind the scenes of Milwaukee's efforts to offer free Wi-Fi in 10 new city parks

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By Teddy Nykiel  –  Reporter, Milwaukee Business Journal

May 11, 2021, 5:06pm CDT

The city of Milwaukee contracted with CDW-G and subcontractor Von Technologies LLC to install Wi-Fi access points in 10 city parks, according to David Henke, chief information officer for Milwaukee's information and technology management division.

The work was part of an initiative to offer free Wi-Fi in underserved communities that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced April 29. The internet service is provided through the city via Milwaukee's general internet access providers, Lumen and WiscNet, Henke said.

In an effort to get the free wireless internet up and running quickly amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the city chose parks that were near or adjacent to city-owned buildings, which already have active network connections, Henke said. The access points installed in the parks extend a portion of those network capacities for public access, he said.

However, the project was initially delayed until early 2021 due to challenges getting access to equipment, Henke said. Installation was then delayed due to weather, he said.

Milwaukee's open-access wireless internet project is funded by the CARES Act and cost more than $100,000, according to a statement from the mayor's office. Henke said the total cost was approximately $200,000, including installation, wiring, hardware, and back-end systems for control and management.

The free Wi-Fi access currently is available in the following eight parks:

  • Fondy Farmers Market, 2200 W. Fond du Lac Ave.
  • Reiske Park, 1640 S. 24th St.
  • Galena Play Area, 3002 W. Galena St.
  • Reservoir Park, 801 E. North Ave.
  • Popuch Park, 8500 N. Granville Road
  • Cawker Play Area, 2929 N. 30th St.
  • Florist Play Area, 5969 N. 84th St.
  • Lincoln Playfield, 300 W. Lincoln Ave.

Later this year, free Wi-Fi will also be available in the Melvina Play Area, 3840 N. 29th St., and Zillman Park, 2180 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., according to the statement from the mayor's office. The city has provided free Wi-Fi at Pere Marquette and Cathedral Square parks since 2003.

Based in Vernon Hills, Illinois, CDW-G is part of CDW Corp. (Nasdaq: CDW). Von Technologies is based in Oak Brook, Illinois.

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