Efforts to create citywide access to Wi-Fi in Council Bluffs will start to pick up next week, a city official said Monday.

“We will start to put in base network components,” said Mark Howard, the city’s chief information official. “We ordered the equipment and received it.”

City staff members will be helped by officials from the Georgia-based firm Smartwave, which is experienced in municipal wireless Internet network installation, Howard said.

Months ago, the city and the Council Bluffs Community Schools agreed to partner in creating expanding Wi-Fi access from a current few hot spots to a citywide system covering at least residential areas.

Currently, the hot spots in Council Bluffs are few and far between, such as along the 100 block of West Broadway, at Bayliss Park and at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, he said.

“Our goal is to cover where residents live, especially those with students,” Howard said. “The goal is to give students who may not have access to the Internet the ability to use school resources for their homework, projects or whatever. The city can benefit greatly.”

Besides helping students, most of whom are issued Chromebooks by their schools, the Wi-Fi expansion could improve public safety and spur economic development in the city, he said.

What’s more, funding for the project is coming from the private sector, with Google leading the charge. The expansion of this service will come in phases, and the entire project could be finished this year, he said.

The first phase of the Wi-Fi expansion will take place in the neighborhood around Wilson Middle School. Subsequent phases will bring coverage toward the Missouri River along the northern portion of the west end.

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