Visitors to the WiFi Park in Newport will soon have access to high-speed internet. Ritter Communication has installed its RightFiber system at the park.
The Newport Economic Development Commission (NEDC) is spearheading the project in conjunction with the Southwest Planning and Development District with funding recently granted by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
The project will cost $231,765 and it should be completed by Sept. 15, NEDC Director Jon Chadwell told Talk Business & Politics. It’s part of a downtown revitalization project that includes a $3 million workforce training center.
“We saw a real need within our community arise, and we’ve been amazed at the support we’ve received in addressing it,” Chadwell said. “With the help of Ritter Communications, we’re creating the infrastructure that will ensure our citizens have remote access to high-quality wireless internet in a safe outdoor environment should another event similar to the pandemic occur.”
The park was funded in part by a pandemic preparedness grant. Before the pandemic many in the community used the library’s free WiFi. Local students and residents struggled to complete their classwork or business online because of a lack of accessibility to reliable high-speed internet when the library had to close, he added.
The park features 41 regular parking spots, four handicap parking spaces, four shaded picnic table areas and free WiFi. The new WiFi park is aesthetically designed and takes the place of a formerly underutilized lot located adjacent to the community library. The park’s WiFi services are essentially an extension of the library’s public WiFi network.
“Ritter Communications is proud to partner with the Newport community in providing unique and creative solutions that support broader access to essential tools and connectivity,” said Ritter Communications President & CEO Alan Morse. “This park will help ensure the residents and businesses of Newport are able to reliably access high-quality internet and stay connected.”
Ritter Communications was first approached about the project by the city’s mayor and the Newport Chamber after the company announced in April plans to expand RightFiber services to the Newport community. The cost of the expansion is $2.6 million.
“Through the expansion of our residential fiber network to serve all neighborhoods within Newport, plus ensuring all eligible households are aware of discounts on internet service available through the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), and now this community WiFi park, we hope to cover all the bases to bridge the digital divide in the community,” Morse added.
“I’m thankful for the vision and leadership of the NEDC and for partners like Ritter Communications who are helping to lift up and improve our community. This collaboration demonstrates the remarkable achievements that can result from a well-suited public-private partnership that focuses on solving a problem,” said Newport Mayor David Stewart.