Lake Region Electric Cooperative has taken taken the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected pledge and has opened up two new, free Wi-Fi locations to keep area residents online and connected.
“Basically, what the pledge means is that we’re not going to disconnect anybody during this problem for nonpayment,” said LREC CEO Hamid Vahdatipour. “We’ll be working with them to try and keep them going. Also, it’s to connect as many new customers as possible and provide free Wi-Fi or free access to customers.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently announced the Keep Americans Connected initiative to ensure Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of the COVID-19. The pledge, which has been taken by hundreds of telecommunications companies across the country, is to last for 60 days, and companies will also be waiving late fees any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus.
Free, public Wi-FI is now available at in the Keys Elementary School parking lot, as well as the Hulbert City Park. The name of the network at each location is “LREC Fiber,” and it does not require a password to connect.
“We think it’s really important to have this available, especially for students who have to be working from home,” said Vahdatipour. “Those who may not have access to the internet at their home, they can be parking at these parking spots, stay in their cars, and basically do their homework. So we thought it would be very important for our community, so we stepped up and added those two sites to it.”
LREC has already installed a free Wi-FI network at Norris Park in Tahlequah. Those who stop by one of the now three locations should see a sign that says “Free Wi-Fi.”
"We’ve contacted Keys School and we’ve contacted Hulbert School so they can send their students down to these locations to download their lessons and do their homework,” said Glen Clark, director of marketing. “We have noticed Norris Park gets a good bit of usage. We’ve noticed that since the first day that we opened that up, and my guess is the Keys and the Hulbert locations will be the same way.”
People are also encouraged to stay in their vehicles to lessen the chance of spreading COVID-19, while visiting one of the locations. Users should be able to access online classwork and stream videos, if needed.
“We just want our members to stay safe and let them know that we’re all in this together,” said Clark.