Key Takeaways from May 12th Broadband and Beyond Webinar: Public WiFi – Challenges and Opportunities

IEI is partnering with the Roanoke Electric Cooperative on a series of three “Broadband and Beyond” webinars which aim to educate and provide resources about the digital divide during COVID-19.


The second webinar in the series was held on Tuesday, May 12th and explored the challenges and opportunities of Public WiFi during COVID-19. Our guest speakers included Sara Nichols of Land of Sky Regional Council and West NGN Broadband Initiative and Amy Braswell of the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce. 


Key takeaways:

  • Getting Public WiFi up and running is hard. There are a lot of factors to consider when making WiFi available to the public. Is the network secure? Unsecure networks can put users at risk, but more secure networks are usually password protected, making the WiFi less accessible. How do you ensure people are adhering to social distancing guidelines when connecting to WiFi in public places? How do you ensure your bandwidth remains strong even as more people are using the public WiFi? Businesses, libraries, schools, and fire departments are all working through these challenges to provide public WiFi during the pandemic.  

Want to know where you can connect to public WiFi in your community? Check out this up-to-date map from the NC Broadband Infrastructure Office with all public WiFi hotspots in your area,


  • Innovative solutions abound. Both Sara Nichols and Amy Braswell highlighted innovative solutions. These include healthcare clinics providing WiFi to their clients in their parking lots to ensure a strong internet connection and businesses creating social distancing markers in their parking lots to encourage social distancing when using WiFi.


  • Technology can fail. Yes, even on a webinar about broadband. In a great twist of irony, both guest speakers and the moderator had internet challenges the day of the webinar. These minor challenges only highlight the major challenge facing North Carolina – no matter where you live, East, Central, West, rural, urban, suburban – we all need strong, fast, and reliable internet service to do our jobs, to finish our homework, to connect to our doctors. The Internet is essential. 


Join us for the next webinar:

  • Telehealth in Response to COVID-19 (May 19)

More information can be found HERE.