The gap between city and rural access to broadband has always been apparent, but it was made painstakingly clear during the coronavirus pandemic. In response, several organizations partnered to launch the American Connection Project (ACP) interactive Wi-Fi map. The map provides a free resource to help the public locate more than 2,300 free Wi-Fi locations across 49 U.S. states.
The map includes Wi-Fi locations from Land O’Lakes Inc. and its ag retail owner network, along with several partner organizations, including 4-H, CentraCare, Compeer, Kentucky Farm Bureau, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Polaris, Inc., the Public Library Association, Tractor Supply Company and Watch Communications, and support from Microsoft and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.
Today, 18 million Americans don’t have access to high-speed internet — most of them in rural communities. Further, roughly 9 million K-12 students and 400,000 public school teachers living in both rural and urban communities lack reliable internet access required for learning. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted health care usage causing telemedicine visits to reach an all-time high as patients seek to avoid exposure at health care facilities.
The Wi-Fi map is an extension of efforts undertaken by the American Connection Project to drive meaningful progress toward closing the digital divide to create opportunities and reduce digital inequality for rural and urban communities in the United States. The map is designed to provide immediate but temporary access for those Americans who lack access to the internet today.
“The launch of the American Connection Project map marks an important milestone in our effort to bring critical services to disconnected communities across America — and a resource for individuals to find broadband access when they truly need it,” said Tina May, Vice President of Rural Services at Land O’Lakes, Inc.
“More than 18 million Americans do not have access to broadband Internet, making the digital divide one of the greatest barriers to education access and workforce development for America’s youth” said Jennifer Sirangelo president and CEO, National 4-H Council. “Broadband access was already a great challenge for students before the pandemic, so now that so many young people are matriculating from home, it’s imperative that they have high speed internet connections they can depend on.”
“All Americans, but particularly rural Americans, will benefit when greater access to affordable broadband internet services is created. This has been a priority issue for Kentucky Farm Bureau for several years now,” said Mark Haney, President of Kentucky Farm Bureau. “We are proud to offer free outdoor Wi-Fi signals at our nearly 200 locations statewide as part of this noble initiative.”
“We’re honored to be a part of the ACP’s efforts to find ways to improve rural connectivity. Providing free Wi-Fi from nearly 580 Tractor Supply stores and counting is one of the near-term solutions we can provide to help connect school children, small business owners, farmers and those who need internet access to a vital resource in today’s digital world,” said Glenn Allison, Tractor Supply’s Vice President, IT Enterprise Architecture and IT Solutions.
Throughout the next several months, additional locations will be added to the map. The American Connection Project searchable Wi-Fi map can be accessed here.