Milwaukee’s Westlawn Gardens to get access to free high-speed internet

Westlawn Gardens housing complex, on North 62nd Street, will soon have low-cost internet service from the nonprofit PCs for People.

Nearly 1,000 households in Milwaukee’s Westlawn Gardens community, on the city’s northwest side, will soon have access to high-speed internet for $15 a month.

The nonprofit PCs for People, with support from Microsoft Corp. and the city’s Housing Authority, says it’s providing the service for free if a resident uses their federal Affordable Connectivity Program benefit.

The new service, made possible by a recently installed 4G LTE wireless tower, won’t require a contract or credit check and will include a modem at no additional cost, according to PCs for People.

Estimates vary, but it’s widely accepted that millions of city dwellers are at risk of falling behind in education, employment and health care — just like their rural counterparts — because they lack adequate home internet access. 

In cities, more often the digital divide is about the monthly cost of internet access than the lack of a service provider.

Earlier, the Housing Authority said Charter Spectrum refused to install internet service at Westlawn Gardens unless it was given exclusive rights to all of the homes. 

The redevelopment of Westlawn Gardens features mid-rise apartment buildings, townhouse-style units and a new street grid.

“We told them we wouldn’t do that because it’s always better when you have multiple service providers. It gives residents a choice of different speeds and price points,” said Willie Hines, the agency’s associate director and former Milwaukee Common Council president.

 “Competition generally brings down prices.”

AT&T agreed to provide broadband at Westlawn Gardens with fiber-optic-cable direct to each residence. Charter Spectrum, in response to Journal Sentinel questions, said the dispute was a misunderstanding about competitors using their wires.