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South Bend will expand its Open WiFi program next year

(FILE PHOTO: Zach Herndon/IPB News)

The city of South Bend has plans to expand free WiFi and become more fiber-friendly in 2022.

The city currently has over 30 access points for free WiFi, many of which are in public parks or city buildings.


At an information and technology committee meeting Monday, Chief Innovation Officer Denise Riedl said the city has state and federal grant money to add even more access points in 2022. 


She said the city will start taking public input on where those access points should be early next year.


Riedl said the city is also looking to expand its fiber optic cable capacity in the future. Fiber offers faster internet speeds than DSL and cable, and Riedl said South Bend has less of it than comparable cities like Fort Wayne and Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.


“This is concerning because of… the exponential growth of data demand when it comes to e-learning and telemedicine,” she said. “It’s not just gaming, like, frivolous gaming. We really will need more data in the future, and fiber is the future-proof option for that.”


Riedl said the city plans to pursue policy changes that will make laying fiber in South Bend easier and less expensive. She said it will also put out a request for information to internet service providers to see how the city can attract more – and more equitable – broadband investment. 


Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.


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Gemma DiCarlo came to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.