Photo: Free Wi-Fi in the parks

The City of Sarasota Launches Free Wi-Fi in the Parks Pilot Program

Posted on December 09, 2022 by Kiarra Louis, Initiative Support Coordinator with The Patterson Foundation
We live in an age where having access to the internet is essential to work, play, learn, and connect to vital services. Our world is increasingly going digital, and to participate in modern society, people need to be connected. However, thousands are without an internet subscription. According to the American Community Survey’s 2020 5-year estimates, about 24,103 (12.7%) of residents in Sarasota County lack an internet subscription.

DA4A wifi in the parkCOVID-19 highlighted the importance of individuals, employers, students, and communities having a Wi-Fi connection. Recognizing the importance of connectivity to accomplish a multitude of activities and responsibilities, the City of Sarasota has launched a Free Wi-Fi in the Parks pilot program, being funded with $470,000 in federal American Rescue Plan dollars.

“The digital divide is real. Many individuals and families don’t have a data plan but need internet access for schoolwork or business. The City’s pilot program is helping to bridge that gap and offer free internet access to park visitors,” said Jan Thornburg, City of Sarasota Senior Communications Manager.

The City of Sarasota’s IT team worked with Comcast Business to get the necessary infrastructure in place.

City Commissioners supported a pilot program bringing free connectivity to four parks: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park (MLK Park), Bayfront Park, Arlington Park, and Payne Park. In Mid-November, the program launched in MLK Park with a “cord-cutting” ceremony. Following MLK Park, Arlington Park is expected to be activated in early January, then Bayfront Park and Payne Park. Each park is located in a different part of town but is visited by individuals and families looking to connect, play, have picnics, and enjoy the outdoors.

Since the program’s launch, the City of Sarasota has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the community. The response emphasizes the need to bridge the digital divide to allow everyone to benefit from the opportunities digital access creates. The City encourages everyone to bring their mobile device to test the connectivity and see how it will enhance the quality of life in our community.

To keep in touch with the City’s work and follow the development of the pilot program, follow them on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Nextdoor, and YouTube.

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