Corporate-sponsored wifi parking lots – awesome for short term but dangerous for long term

This is awesome news for students and great to see strong corporate citizens – as the Pioneer Press reports

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the country, Land O’Lakes is doing its part to help people feel connected.
Literally.
Based in Arden Hills, the member-owned agricultural cooperative has started offering free Wi-Fi to various rural communities across the country that might not otherwise have access.
It’s an initiative Land O’Lakes has been talking about for awhile, according to Chief Technology Officer Teddy Bekele. And with everyone shifting to life online during the COVID-19 crisis, the digital divide in rural communities has been further exacerbated.
“We decided we needed to do something immediately and one of the easiest steps we could take was to turn the guest Wi-Fi on at our locations so people could come to the parking lot and use it there,” Bekele said. “We have also encouraged a lot of our ag retailers to do the same.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Land O’Lakes and the rest of its network is now offering free Wi-Fi at about 120 locations spanning 14 states. That number will likely increase in the coming weeks.

BUT is it long-term good news for the community? I’m afraid that it’s a Band-Aid that that will allow community leaders and policy makers to look away from long term broadband solutions and the communities that need it. It’s the oil that will fix the squeaky wheel but not the cart!

It is important and impressive to get people online as quickly as possible to work and learn and even do to the doctor as regular visit shift to online only. (Thank you Land O’Lakes !) BUT the legislature is making decisions on greater funding for broadband now – so now is the time to squeak. And if we don’t get funding to serve some of these remote area now, they will be squeaking later because parking lot wifi is pretty good in May, unbearable in December.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, MN, Policy and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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