Partnership for a Connected Ilinois will develop a mobile application to help those in rural areas of Illinois to locate businesses with public Wi-Fi, identify gaps in coverage, encourage businesses to create more public Wi-Fi hotspots, and highlight the need for rural broadband access.
PCI will develop a mobile application (app) to help those in rural areas of Illinois find nearby Wi-Fi hotspots. Many apps locate Wi-Fi, but few have data for rural areas. This app for smartphone and tablets using the Android or iOS systems will also function in web browsers for users who lack a mobile device. Users of this app will be able to locate businesses with public Wi-Fi, find the address and get directions, see contact information, hours of operation, and whether the hotspot has open access and is free, or if a password or fee are required.
The app will also promote broadband usage and adoption in rural areas. Larger businesses like McDonalds and Panera often have free Wi-Fi available to customers, but many rural areas do not have the luxury of having such establishments in their communities. Instead, local businesses like cafes, bookstores, libraries, and churches may be valuable and untapped sources of Wi-Fi connectivity. One feature of this free app is to suggest businesses that would be suitable hotspots. Once recommended, we will contact the business and explain the process and minimal cost involved in becoming a hotspot, thereby encouraging and increasing broadband adoption. Developing this app will get youth involved in asset building in their communities. We will partner with the FFA and with 4-H clubs in these rural areas, both to gather data on hotspots and to market the app’s availability.