Public-Private Partnership Brings Wi-Fi to Mancos Park
Getting fast and reliable high-speed internet was a challenge for many people in the Four Corners even before the pandemic. But now, as more adults and schoolchildren work remotely, communities and private businesses are stepping up to fill in some of the gaps. One such effort is bringing broadband to a city park in Mancos.
Many rural and Native American communities are said to be on the wrong side of the digital divide. That refers to the stark inequalities in broadband between urban and rural areas.
It's not just a matter of speed or availability. Some people simply can't afford it.
A recent survey conducted by the Mancos School District showed that 20 percent of the district's families did not have reliable home internet service.
The town decided to partner with Durango-based Fast Track Communications to bring Wi-Fi service to Boyle Park. It works just like Wi-Fi does at the library or coffee shop: Turn on your device, locate the clearly-named network, and log-in. No password needed.
According to FastTrack CEO Kelly Hebbard, such partnerships between local governments and broadband providers are on the increase. Especially as schoolchildren and adult workers struggle to stay connected during the pandemic.
Editor's Note: As this story was being produced, news arrived that Congress had reached a deal on a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. Included is $7 billion to increase American's access to high-speed internet. According to the bill's language, almost half of that money will go to connect working families to broadband. The bill also includes $1 billion in grants for Tribal broadband programs.