As days turn into weeks and the weeks now become months, we as global citizens are all, universally, feeling the effects of COVID-19. The world is in flux and uncertainty now reigns supreme. The pandemic has unearthed very harsh realities that will inevitably change the way we operate our businesses, schools, healthcare systems, and general ways of life forever. Policies, processes, and procedures will have to be evaluated and modified as the pressure from this virus has exposed flaws in our society, particularly when it comes to access to reliable internet.
The digital divide has always been always a problem. It has existed in this country for decades but only now has become more significant as families without adequate access to reliable internet are unable to live their lives. Prior to the coronavirus, these families stayed afloat because they were able to go to their places or work or schools, where access to the internet was available. Now, with aggressive regulations in place preventing schools and businesses from opening, these families are left extremely disadvantaged and vulnerable as reliable internet has now become a necessity for humankind.
As a Maine-based internet service provider, we have worked with various municipalities to build high-speed fiber internet networks. In talking with our partners and community leaders following the restrictions imposed by our government, it was apparent that there is a portion of these populations that are extremely disadvantaged when it comes to access to home internet services, whether that be pricing related or simply a lack of reliable options. The need was there and time was not to be wasted.
Thanks to the help from our partners in South Portland and Sanford, as well as the aid of S&C Satellite, we are happy to announce that we are offering free public WiFi hotspots. These hotspots are located at the Redbank Community Center in South Portland and the Lafayette School in Sanford. They will be free and open to the public to use for the next 60 days. Though this is certainly not a long term solution to bridge the digital divide in these areas, we hope that it will alleviate some of the pressure that those without reliable internet access are feeling.
At GWI, we made a decision years ago to strictly build ultra-high speed, fiber optic networks to allow for the guaranteed fastest speeds and reliability for businesses and residents alike. This was not a decision we took lightly and was one we made to ensure that our users had the best experience possible. We feel that it is our responsibility and obligation to offer the best possible service to as much of Maine as we can. Our long term goal continues to be to build high speed fiber networks to every corner of the State. However, in the immediate term, we will do whatever we can to help the communities we serve during this turbulent time.
At this time, we are continuing to work with community leaders to identify other areas where we may be able to offer assistance.
We hope you all are safe and healthy. We celebrate your kindness and generosity in these trying times. We will get through this all together.