The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing internet access disparities in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood due to increased need for remote schooling, telehealth, and working from home. A survey conducted in the summer of 2020 found that:
- 42% of survey respondents in the Canal said their internet was not fast enough to watch a video without it buffering
- 57% of survey respondents in the Canal said they do not own a computer at home
- 44% of survey respondents in the Canal said it was difficult to connect to the internet
- 61% of survey respondents in the Canal reported having a wired internet connection in their home
The County of Marin, City of San Rafael, Canal Alliance, and San Rafael City Schools teamed up to build a free and public WiFi network to the Canal neighborhood during the pandemic. Designed with resiliency in mind, generators will keep parts of the network up during major power outages which will allow residents to access critical emergency information when home internet connectivity may be down.
The network was made possible by funding from the County of Marin as well as generous donations from Marin Community Foundation, Mark Pincus, and Leighton Hills. This fundraising effort was spearheaded by County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni.
This project came to fruition thanks to the following volunteers and companies offering pro bono services:
- Lionel Florit, Marin resident
- Dave Cooper, Marin IT
- DC Electric
- Luis Romero & Lauren Fishburn, United States Digital Response