BLink, the free public Wi-Fi service launched in Council Bluffs in October 2015, will soon be available in Carter Lake, according to a local technology official.
The Carter Lake portion of the system will go live on Monday, according to John Stile, chief technology officer with the Council Bluffs Community School District and member of the Governance Council for the Council Bluffs Area Wi-Fi Consortium.
The addition will be beneficial to the community of Carter Lake and help make it “an attractive place to live, work and play,” Mayor Ron Cumberledge said.
“For a small town of 3,700, free Wi-Fi is a dream to most people,” he said.
Stile’s predecessor, David Fringer, initiated a conversation with Cumberledge about the project, the mayor said.
The school district would like all of its students to have internet access, either by purchasing it from a commercial provider or by using the free public service. When schools were forced to switch to virtual instruction in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, gaps in access became more obvious. But even when schools are open, students use the internet to access homework assignments and other materials.
The BLink network currently reaches about 45% of the residents of the Council Bluffs Community School District, including most of those on the west end of Council Bluffs, Stile said. Antennas mounted on top of Carter Lake Elementary School, Omaha Public Power District access points and some of the school district’s spare fiber optic cable were used to extend the service to Carter Lake in the BLink project’s fifth phase, he said.
The extension’s cost was about $200,000, Stile said. This was covered by a grant from the Iowa West Foundation and funding from Google. The school district and the City of Council Bluffs will pay yearly maintenance fees and the electric bill.
However, OPPD has waived electrical fees in Carter Lake, he said.
On June 23, the Board of Education approved an amended agreement with the City of Council Bluffs and the City of Carter Lake adding Carter Lake to the Council Bluffs Area WiFi Consortium and stating that the group will provide free wireless internet service to Carter Lake residents “to the extent technically possible and financially feasible.”
The agreement states that the consortium will be governed by a council with seven members: the chief technology officer from the school district or his/her designee, an appointee of the superintendent, the chief information officer of the City of Council Bluffs or his/her designee, the mayor’s chief of staff or appointee, the mayor of Carter Lake or his/her designee, a member appointed by the Iowa West Foundation Board and a representative appointed by Google, a consortium partner.
The agreement is to last for five years and can be renewed one year at a time after that.
The governance council will, in turn, appoint representatives of each of the parties to a technology committee to make recommendations at the direction and request of the governance council.