Project to Provide Free Internet to Support Distance Learning in Shadowwood Mobile Home Park

The City of Champaign is pleased to announce the installation of new equipment to provide wireless Internet connectivity to Champaign Unit 4 students living in the Shadowwood Mobile Home Park. Through a collaborative project, new wi-fi equipment is being installed in Shadowwood August 19-21, 2020, with the goal of having the equipment fully operational to support online learning by the start of the fall semester. The City of Champaign is coordinating the project with cooperation from Unit 4 Schools, i3 Broadband, Mesh++, Ameren Illinois, and Shadowwood Mobile Home Park. This project was fully funded through a $20,000 grant from the UC2B Community Benefit Fund.

Champaign Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen said, “Helping bridge the digital divide by providing free Internet service to our underserved students to facilitate distance learning has never been more important than it is right now. I applaud everyone who quickly pulled together to make this project possible and wish all our students the very best as we kickoff a very unique school year.”

“We are a diverse District committed to providing equitable access to the quality Internet needed for Distance Learning,” added Superintendent of Champaign Unit 4 Schools, Dr. Susan Zola. “Seeing the community collaboration is one of many ways we continue to move Forward Together in championing learning during these challenging times.”

The project will provide wi-fi Internet connectivity for Shadowwood’s students which will allow them to connect directly to Unit 4 School’s online learning applications. This will be accomplished utilizing new mesh-network wi-fi technology developed by Mesh++. Headquartered in Chicago, Mesh++ recently got its start in the University of Illinois Research Park and its President and CEO, Danny Gardner, is a University of Illinois alum.

Underlying fiber connectivity for the project will be provided by i3 Broadband, who has waived all recurring fees for connectivity associated with this project while it is used to provide student
access to online learning. Ameren Illinois is also assisting with the project by allowing the mesh-network equipment to be mounted on their light poles. Ameren Illinois and the City of Champaign will each provide bucket trucks and personnel to facilitate the equipment installation.

Champaign’s Information Technologies Director Mark Toalson added, “Everyone involved collaborated quickly to make this project happen with an understanding of how critical it is, in this time of social distancing and distance learning, to provide Internet service to students in need as quickly as possible. If the project is successful, the possibility of expanding it to other areas, and other students in need, will be explored.”