BLink Phase 8 went live on December 7, 2022, and officials, staff, and students celebrated with a ceremonial puzzle completion event.
“Our Council Bluffs students and families are fortunate to be part of a truly connected community,” said Dr. Murillo, Superintendent of Council Bluffs Community School District. “What started as one strategy in a strategic plan and a lofty dream is now a success story, thanks to so many partners, like those of you here today.”
In 2014, The Council Bluffs Community School District approved a plan that included a strategy to expand its Wi-Fi network for students into the community. The idea of providing free Wi-Fi stemmed from Google’s donation of Chromebooks. Google committed to one laptop per student. However, some students couldn’t use the laptops at home because they didn’t have internet access.
The City of Council Bluffs and the Council Bluffs Community School District formed a 28-E organization to expand free community Wi-Fi for the District’s students. A committee called the Council Bluffs Area Wi-Fi Consortium assembled, announced the first two phases, and began fundraising. The first phase was completed in 2015.
“The continuous expansion of BLink increases the opportunities for our youth to learn beyond the classroom walls,” said Mayor Matt Walsh. “This project is a great example of public/ private partnerships. Without the support of Google, Iowa West Foundation, and Council Bluffs Community School District, Bluffs Community Wi-Fi would not be possible.”
BLink funding continues to be a community-wide effort. No tax dollars have been used. The Iowa West Foundation has contributed more than $1 million to BLink. While the project is led by the City of Council Bluffs and Council Bluffs Community School District, it is supported by many community partners who have contributed funds, time, materials, labor, or expertise. BLink Partners include Google, Iowa West Foundation, SmartWAVE Technologies, Ruckus Wireless, Mid-American Energy, Charles E. Lakin Foundation, Echo Group, Emspace, Miller Electric, UNITE Private Networks, Bluffs Electric, City of Carter Lake, and OPPD.
“Iowa West invests in projects that make our community a place where people love to live,” said Brenda Mainwaring, President and CEO of Iowa West Foundation. “For parents, that means making sure their children can get a great education. BLink is one of the many ways that Council Bluffs and Lewis Central school districts are using innovation to deliver access to a great education.”
BLink is a free and open Wi-Fi network that boosts connectivity in many Council Bluffs neighborhoods, all Council Bluffs Community School District buildings, and many public parks and outdoor spaces. BLink is available for students, residents, and visitors.
“Google is proud to continue its support of the BLink Wi-Fi network, which helps ensure Council Bluffs students and the community have the tools they need to be successful,” said Shawne Zuber, Operations Manager at Google in Council Bluffs. “Knowing internet connectivity is critical for economic opportunity and upward mobility, Google is committed to internet accessibility in our home communities like Council Bluffs.”
In the first six years, the Consortium completed seven phases of BLink coverage in Council Bluffs plus an additional area in Carter Lake. Phase 8 went live in December of 2022 and included the neighborhoods around Abraham Lincoln High School and Valley View Park.
The Consortium is now planning further expansion of BLink for the neighboring Lewis Central Community School District.
At project completion, the BLink coverage area will reach more than 20 square miles, providing Wi-Fi access to more than 40,000 people and reaching the doorsteps of most homes in Council Bluffs. BLink will eventually be one of the most extensive free community Wi-Fi networks in the United States. The Consortium’s continued commitment to this project demonstrates the vision for community-wide access and growth.
Learn more at blinkwifi.org.