Many of Smithville's population of 4,000 within the city limits and 12,000 in the school district do not have adequate access to broadband or internet services. Thanks to a grant from the Union Pacific Foundation (UPF), four WiFi hotspots were added to increase internet coverage for the families who need it.
"We believe having a safe place to live, a family-supporting career and access to vibrant spaces are critical for communities to thrive," said Ivan Jaime, Union Pacific Sr. Director of Public Affairs. “This funding will help those greatly impacted by COVID-19, providing the assistance they need to recover from the outbreak."
The $10,000 grant was awarded to the Friends of the Smithville Public Library as they continue to help the library brings services to the community beyond the library’s walls; the grant will pay for the equipment and installation, as well as part of the first year's contract.
Sam Kuninger, President of the Friends, expressed thanks on behalf of the group, noting, "During the last eight months, good news has been hard to find. This generous grant will benefit Smithville and was great news for all friends of the library."
The City of Smithville will manage the contract, with ongoing support for one hotspot from the Smithville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Up to now, people have had access to free WiFi at the Smithville Public Library, the Gazebo and Main Street, and the Recreation Center. With the UPF grant, four additional locations provide access: Keilburg Park, MLK Park, Riverbend Park, and Bluebonnet Circle. This comes just in time for school to get started, and augments the internet access the school campuses are providing in the parking lots.
Ana Murray, District Communications Officer for Smithville ISD, said, “SISD is very excited about the efforts put forth by these community partners in supporting the connectivity of community members.”
Students, their families, and anyone else who needs it will be able to use these public spaces to do the work they may not be able to do at home.
“It has been a pleasure working with the City of Smithville to provide several Public Wifi Hotspots. This should allow students that do not have access at home to visit one of the designated locations and access their school work,” said Erich Kaiser, owner of SCT Broadband.
According to Smithville Mayor Scott Saunders, Jr., “As we search for more comprehensive solutions to the issue of broadband access in Smithville and across SISD, this project will provide the necessary service. Through this project, the Union Pacific Foundation has helped to provide connectivity at public locations scattered throughout the City, giving access to neighborhoods that need it the most.”