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Council Bluffs expands free WiFi for thousands of students

The coronavirus pandemic reinforced a need for students to have strong WiFi. To meet that need, thousands of students will be logging into BLink - which is also known as Bluffs Community WiFi. It's meant to help connectivity in neighborhoods, school district buildings and outdoor spaces.
Posted at 6:25 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 19:25:40-05

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Ia. (KMTV) — It's a project of access, meant to reach the doorsteps of most homes in Council Bluffs. At more than 20 square miles, it will provide access to more than 40,000 people.

The city of Council Bluffs came up with the idea of providing WiFi after Google donated Chromebooks to the Council Bluffs Community School District. Thus, BLink was born. The WiFi expansion project involves phases. Before the pandemic forced schools to close in March, most phases of the project were complete. Still, Superintendent Vickie Murillo says the installation needed to get expedited.

"We had 5 phases of BLINK completed, we were close to about 70% of our students being able to connect but we knew we were still lacking about 30%, that's why it was really critical to see us finish phase six and phase seven," Murillo said.

Phase seven is currently underway and is expected to be done in early 2021. Still - Murillo says - there is work to do.

"We'll still be short about 10% of our school population, there is a small area out south in Council Bluffs that we still need to finish after this," Murillo said.

Mayor Matt Walsh acknowledges access to WiFi is critical to student engagement.

"A fixed book is not always attractive to a student, but when they can do their research and reading on a device, the effort to come up with a solution to their question, it enhances the learning experience," Walsh said.

Regardless of their socioeconomic status, Murillo is determined to help every child succeed.

"It kind of breaks down the barriers, levels the field and provides that equity, and we want all students to have access to education every day and not have any barriers," Murillo said.

BLink is available for students, residents and visitors. No tax dollars are used to fund it.