City of Wilmington adds free WiFi zones

A map of free WiFi zones in Wilmington; city staff say more sites will be added. (Port City Daily/Screenshot)

WILMINGTON —  The City of Wilmington, through a community partnership with New Hanover County, New Hanover County School System, and Live Oak Bank, has added free WiFi zones. Three new zones can be tapped into at the MLK Community Center, Wilmington Police Department, and Maides Park.

With the uptick of internet use from remote learning over the past year —Pew Research reported 90% of the U.S. population used the ‘net during Covid-19 — the city prioritized where to first add free access with the guidance of New Hanover County Schools System.

According to IT director Brian Scott, there were plans to activate the new zones earlier, specifically for students who weren’t attending in-person classes from the Covid-19 shutdown. However, the pandemic put the equipment on back order.


The cost for the infrastructure was funded by the CARES Act. Ongoing operational expenses, which equal around $5,000 a year, will come from the annual general fund, according to city spokesperson Jennifer Dandron.

“The city is currently in the budgeting process for FY22, which includes additional sites,” Dandron added.

She said the signal, operated by Spectrum high-speed internet, will reach outward of 300 feet in any direction of its host spot. Passwords are not needed to access them either.

“Signs are located at the locations with the network information, so all anyone has to do is connect to the network CoW_FreeWifi and then they’ll be able to use it,” Dandron said.

Maps are available on the city’s website to show where all free WiFi zones are located. Dandron said “user’s data is no more or no less secure than connecting to any other public WiFi.”

WIRED magazine suggests users on free WiFi should always turn off file sharing, AirDrop, printer options, and other programs that can compromise personal data.


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