Back in December 2021, the City of Billings Parks and Recreation Department received approval to utilize $1,023,000 in Community Development Block Grant – Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) funds. Per the requirements of the grant, funds are to be used to improve city parks located in low-income areas with a goal "to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by implementing touchless features and other elements in park facilities."

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Free wi-fi will no longer be part of the improvement plan.

In the Billings City Administrator Weekly Report (3/24/22, pdf HERE), city officials announced they have nixed a somewhat controversial element of the park upgrade plan. Stating that the risks outweigh the benefits, officials have decided that free public wi-fi will not be part of the improvement upgrades at eight of the low-income neighborhood parks in Billings.

The Parks Police Officer and other law enforcement officials presented several concerns about the plan, including increased possibilities of individuals sleeping/loitering in the parks, increased potential for trash with a limited staff to clean it up, and concerns that "providing a service that will cause park users to become distracted by their electronic devices will create additional opportunities for park users to become victims of crimes."

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Oh yeah, and porn.

The canceled plan to install free wi-fi in some city parks also raised concerns of creeps and pedophiles accessing adult content in close proximity to children. The wi-fi would have included a filter, but due to legalities users would have had the ability to easily opt-out of the filter, essentially making it worthless.

OPINION: I feel that the city has made the right decision. The concept of free wi-fi in parks, particularly those in lower-income neighborhoods sounds nice, and I'm sure many residents would appreciate the ability to access the web at the park. Beyond the reasons already stated by law enforcement, I feel that parks are probably the last place you should be on your phone. I mean... isn't that why you came to the park in the first place?

Billings Brewery Walking Trail