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Google Pittsburgh will bring public Wi-Fi to Larimer, East Liberty

Bob Bauder
| Thursday, March 3, 2016, 5:12 p.m.

Larimer will become the second city neighborhood with public access to Wi-Fi because of a $150,000 grant Google Pittsburgh is providing, officials said.

Mayor Bill Peduto and representatives of Google and the Kingsley Association in Larimer announced the project Thursday evening at the Kingsley headquarters on Frankstown Avenue.

Google will provide the funding and two years of free maintenance and support costs for a network that will cover about 30 percent of Larimer and bordering sections of East Liberty. Velociti Inc., based in Missouri, will install the network and is discounting its costs for Google as part of the deal, spokeswoman Layla Barbur said.

Kingsley plans to seek more funding to expand the coverage to the entire neighborhood, said the association's executive director, Malik Bankston.

“It will obviously help to close the so-called digital divide that's been identified in lower-income neighborhoods, and secondarily, it's going to provide a high-quality Internet access that is especially important for school-age kids,” Bankston said.

Larimer, which has about 1,730 residents, is one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Kamal Nigam, who heads Google's Pittsburgh office, said the grant fits with the company's core mission of promoting universal Internet access.

“According to 2013 census data, more than 20 percent of Pittsburgh homes lack Internet access,” he wrote in a statement. “We are happy to support installation of a Wi-Fi network that will increase Internet access for our neighbors.”

Plans call for the network to be available by early spring for new homes and apartments being built in the area of East Liberty Boulevard and Larimer Avenue.

The network would cover about 350 homes in the $30 million Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded development known as Choice Neighborhoods in Larimer; 100 homes in the Enright Court section of East Liberty; and neighboring residences, Bankston said.

Residents will have access to wireless high-speed Internet inside and outside their homes, Nigam said. Google Pittsburgh's office is in Bakery Square in Larimer.

“This is a major step on our quest to bridge the digital divide in Pittsburgh,” Peduto said. “Expanding access to technology and information is essential to creating equal opportunities for all Pittsburghers.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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