COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Columbia apartment complex has free Wi-Fi with the help of the city of Columbia, a local church, and and popular radio host Charlamagne tha God.
On Friday, September 25, the City of Columbia launched the expansion of Wi-Fi to the Colony Apartments on Beltline Boulevard, through an initiative orchestrated by Sam Johnson, and a partnership with IGNITE CITIES (IGNITE).
The city says Gregory Electric, with remote support from Mesh++ installed ten Solar Powered Mesh WI-FI networking nodes manufactured by Mesh++ at the Colony Apartments on West Beltline Boulevard. The installation is done by Gregory Electric using a bucket truck. The devices, which weigh 25 pounds, are attached to lamp posts throughout The Colony Apartments facility.
The city says the free Wi-Fi program aims to provide access to students who are unable to access remote learning, and to families looking for both employment and COVID-19 assistance. This solution requires zero trenching or cables, and relies entirely on solar power and cell service, at absolutely no cost to the city or its residents.
“It is unconscionable to think that our students can receive a quality education without access to the internet,” said Sam Johnson in a statement. “We have to be creative in finding solutions to make sure our communities are able to address these growing, evolving challenges. I’m just thankful to be able to play a role in helping this take place here in Columbia.”
The first installation will support the residents of the Colony and North Pointe Apartments. The community service project has also received a generous donation from South Carolina native and national level radio and television personality Charlamagne Tha God, and Elevation Church.
“As a father of three, I hate that two of my children had to do virtual learning, but you immediately get brought back to reality when you realize something that you take for granted, like Wi Fi, is a luxury that other people don’t have,” said Charlamagne Tha God.
“I saw a video of kids literally at a Taco Bell using the Wi Fi just to do schoolwork and that broke my heart,” Charlamagne Tha God continued. “Around this time every year I do a book bag drive but clearly this year that’s not what these students needed. I reached out to Mayor Benjamin just to ask him what can we do for kids who are experiencing these types of challenges, and he told me exactly what was needed, so now it’s done. I’m going to always be there for my people. When I say South Carolina, we all we got: I truly mean that.”
IGNITE Cities has initiated this COVID-19 Wi-Fi Relief Program in the United States with deployments active in New Orleans, Chicago, Miami, LA and Columbia.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and amplified many of the systemic disadvantages and barriers that challenge families trying to survive in adverse economic conditions, including what should be the simple function of sending their children to school,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “No child should be denied the framework of education simply due to a lack of WI-FI access. When Charlamagne Tha God asked me what he could do to help struggling families in Columbia, I knew his generosity could greatly augment IGNITE’s tech initiative and provide the free access they need to help bring their children to the digital classrooms other students have easy access to.”
“Our families across the country are hurt and it’s our responsibility to provide the relief, recovery and rebuild for our cities.” said George Burciaga of IGNITE. “So, let’s rebuild together and ensure we include everyone and all communities this time.”
This program was also launched in Chicago on July 28th. IGNITE, in collaboration with Mayor Benjamin and other mayors across the country have deployed Wi-Fi relief in Miami, New Orleans and LA. Local electrical contractor Gregory Electric will install the wireless WI-FI devices on existing utility poles at the Colony Apartments on September 25.