Yellow Springs train station becomes free WiFi hub

The Yellow Springs Station, situated along the bike path in downtown, is now a hub for free WiFi in the Village of Yellow Springs.
The Yellow Springs Station, situated along the bike path in downtown, is now a hub for free WiFi in the Village of Yellow Springs.

Credit: Sarah Franks

Credit: Sarah Franks

Latest WiFi hotspot part of bigger effort to increase access to residents, students and visitors

The Yellow Springs train station, or the Yellow Springs Station, is now a free WiFi hotspot that anyone can use.

It’s the third free WiFi hotspot installed in the village in recent months by the village government, said Village Manager, Josue Salmeron. The two other hotspots are located at the Village Library and the school board building at corner of Walnut and Short streets.

The hotspot to the train station cost the village about $6,000, which is an eligible expense under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Salmeron said.

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The new resource was put in place a little more than a week before the Yellow Springs Board of Education decided all students will do online learning for the first quarter this fall as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“One of the problems we face with that is, well, we don’t have reliable internet for a lot of families in the village,” Salmeron said. “So how do we resolve that pain point? We try to be proactive early on to try and create more access points for our students.”

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When students first transitioned to remote education this spring, the village set up the first two hotspots to ease challenges students were facing while learning at home.

“The current (internet) problem is aggravated by the coronavirus and people needing to have more options to be able to do their work remotely,” Salmeron said.

Although the village recognizes students might not be able to always enter the buildings with hotspots, the connection will allow users within a radius of a few hundred feet to pull-up assignments, upload and download assignments and work on some homework. The village’s installation of fiber optic Internet is what has made the recent connection improvements possible, Salmeron said.

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Fiber internet uses fiber-optic cables instead of copper wires, as cable internet uses, according to reviews.org. It transfers data faster, and it’s more reliable over long distances.

More communities are installing the infrastructure needed to make fiber Internet possible. In the past, the village has paid for studies to have the village become a fiber community, Salmeron said.

The train station’s hotspot setup took longer, Salmeron said, because fiber needed to be run from the John Bryan Community Center. The library and school board building already had fiber capabilities, so setup was able to be finished sooner.

“The other benefit we have now of having installed fiber in the train station is that one of the initiatives that was thought about in the past was creating this wireless mesh network (downtown),” Salmeron said. “One of the first tasks that needed to be accomplished was to get a high-speed internet connection to the downtown area.”

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Now that downtown has a fiber connection, the village will be able to quickly establish more hotspots, part of the long-term plan to have one WiFi network available for all of downtown. All the WiFi hubs would be connected to one, reliable network, similar to an airport, Salmeron explained.

“With the schools recently announcing they are going to be online in the first quarter, it just puts additional pressure to get this done,” Salmeron said. “So what we’re looking at right now is how do we finance it.”