Free wireless internet a possibility for west Tuscaloosa

TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - If a proposal currently under review gets final approval, free wireless Internet service would be available in parts of West Tuscaloosa.

West Tuscaloosa Connect would be paid for by Community Development Block Grant funds, through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to City of Tuscaloosa Director of Federal Programs LaParry Howell, the wireless internet would be available along Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, from Stillman Blvd. to 25th Street, and also a one block section of Dragons Lane. Howell says $70,000 is currently budgeted for the project.

Howell says people living in the area, as well as visitors, would benefit from this program. Howell says if the program is approved and successful, the City may look to expand it to other parts of Tuscaloosa.

At this point, the plans have been presented before a special called community development meeting of the Tuscaloosa City council, and are currently in a 30 day period of citizen comment. After that, the plans must be approved by HUD, and then the area would undergo an environmental review.

Once those steps were complete, the project would go back before the Tuscaloosa City Council, for the selection of a contractor for the project. Howell estimates it could return to the council by August.

Tuscaloosa City Councilman Harrison Taylor says the idea is to make wireless Internet more available in an area made up largely of low to moderate income residents.

"It's so important to so many kids and grown people now, who will have access to computers," Taylor said. "And it's just a step in the right direction for our city."

The City Council has already approved plans for free Wi-Fi along Tuscaloosa's new City Walk, which runs through the April 27, 2011 tornado recovery area.

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