The City of Iowa City is partnering with ImOn Communications to bring wireless Internet to the Northside. The network will cover the outdoor dining area on the block between Market Street and the alley north of Market Street.
Iowa City residents now have access to free Wi-Fi in most of the city’s public areas—now including historic Northside.
city representative announced the internet connection expansion on September 8, which will cover the outdoor dining area on the block between Market Street and the alley north of the market.
ImOn also offers free community WiFi at Ped Mall, Chauncey Swan Park and adjacent park ramp, and Riverfront Crossings Park.
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Based on Cedar Rapids, ImOn communication provides broadband Internet, television and telephone services to residents and businesses in eastern Iowa.
ImOn Communications Officer Lisa Ratigan said offering free Wi-Fi is one way the company wants to give back to the communities where services are provided.
ratigan said the North Linn Street extension makes sense as the area is full of restaurants and shops.
“We chose North Linn because that’s where the road gets closed and people congregate in the restaurants and shops and everything,” she said. “It just seems like a popular area that could benefit from access to Wi-Fi.”
ratigan said the process of expanding ImOn’s connection in the city started this summer.
“We looked at where the best place to put some of our equipment is, that’s the network access point that sends out the signal,” she said. “So we had to find the best place and then get approval from the building owner to install this equipment in their building.”
Restaurants like Goosetown Cafe, Hamburg Inn No. 2, Iowa City Oasis Falafel and The Webster are all located in North Linn and offer guests al fresco dining.
Shannon McMahon, City of Iowa Communications Coordinator said visitor numbers to North Linn Street have increased since the city closed part of North Linn Street to al fresco dining in 2020.
“That brought more people to the area and then they added live entertainment,” she said. “The numbers have held up and it seems like the area is still quite busy.”
ratigan said the need for public access to the internet has been emphasized during the pandemic and recent weather-related incidents.
“One thing we learned during the pandemic is that it’s a good idea to have public access in emergencies like a pandemic or a derecho, which wasn’t quite as bad in Iowa City but was really bad in Cedar to have rapids to the Internet,” she said. “Many people were without power for up to two weeks, so our public wifi areas were still a place to turn to [to] Accessing the Internet.”
Local residents who ate in the cordoned off al fresco dining area on North Linn Street had mixed feelings about the new Wi-Fi accessibility.
Amel AliChair of the Iowa City Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said Sept. 18 that she likes the accessibility aspect of the city, which offers free Wi-Fi but would not use it for privacy reasons.
“It looks like it might seem like a really great idea, but the student body probably won’t realize how much access they’re giving to literally everyone,” Ali said. “I would strongly recommend university students and anyone who cares about their digital security not to use this free wifi.”
Jacob Paynea University of Iowa graduate student, agreed that privacy is an issue, but said he likes how the city is offering this as a resource.
“[Privacy] is definitely a potential problem, but of course you’re sitting in a public place and it’s not that different than just being in one place,” he said. “I think it’s good to provide this as a resource for people and to encourage people to come and use public spaces.”
Kufre Ituk contributed to this report.