An incredible convergence of tech & philanthropy came together recently to install free WI-FI for the Colony Apartments on Beltline Boulevard and the North Point Apartments on Ripplemeyer Avenue, bringing access to students who are unable to access remote learning, and to families looking for both employment and COVID-19 assistance.
The City of Columbia achieved the WI-FI expansion to the complexes through an initiative orchestrated by Sam Johnson, and partnerships with national tech companies IGNITE Cities and Mesh++, as well as philanthropic contributions from local companies Gregory Electric and Elevation Church. The project also received an enormous boost due to contributions from South Carolina native and national radio/television star Charlamagne Tha God.
“As a father of three, I hate that two of my children had to do virtual learning, but you immediately get brought back to reality when you realize something that you take for granted, like WI-FI, is a luxury that other people don’t have,” Charlamagne Tha God detailed about his involvement in the project. “I saw a video of kids literally at a Taco Bell using the WI-FI just to do schoolwork and that broke my heart. I reached out to Mayor Benjamin just to ask him what can we do for kids who are experiencing these types of challenges, and he told me exactly what was needed.”
Columbia City Councilman Edward H. McDowell, Jr. took part, as well as Columbia Police Deputy MJ Kelly and Columbia police officers, Perry Bradley from Building Better Communities and Robert Anderson from City Public Works.
After the first WI-FI receptor was installed on a light pole at Colony Apartments, Sam Johnson and I had the pleasure of joining two enthusiastic school-age residents in using an app to power up the system.
“It is unconscionable to think that our students can receive a quality education without access to the internet,” said Sam Johnson. “We have to be creative in finding solutions to make sure our communities are able to address these growing, evolving challenges. I’m just thankful to be able to play a role in helping this take place here in Columbia.”
No child should be denied the framework of education and no family should be cut off from employment and health resources simply due to lack of WI-FI access. We are pleased and thankful so many concerned and generous partners came together to bring this necessary resource to these two communities.
Mayor Steve Benjamin