Metro Louisville

Mayor Greg Fischer says the city is making progress on a pair of initiatives to increase internet access in Louisville.

Five years ago, Louisville officials began installing free internet hotspots in parts of the Russell neighborhood. On Monday, Fischer said a firm has been selected to add an additional 30 Wi-Fi points throughout the area, doubling the neighborhood’s access to free internet.

He compared internet connections to other household necessities, such as electricity, heat and water.

“In the 21st century, that list of necessities for success and full potential for participation in society absolutely includes high-speed internet access,” Fischer said. “Today, high-speed internet is just as essential as any other utility, but far too many lack the basic access, tools and skills to take advantage of technology.”

According to Fischer, 82,000 families in Louisville do not have computers in their homes. Lack of access to digital connectivity is a prominent issue in neighborhoods like Russell, where 80% of homes currently lack internet subscriptions.

“This honestly in my view is tragic, and it’s unjust,” Fischer said. “It’s a waste of human potential. I have seen over and over that talent and potential are evenly spread throughout our city. But opportunity and access are not.”

Alisia McClain is the Director of Community and Education Initiatives at the Future of Work Initiative — a partnership between Louisville and Microsoft to promote the use of and access to technology. She said the luxury of having access to a computer with internet at a young age was a major factor in the trajectory of her life.

Russell has over 9,500 residents, about 91% of which are Black. McClain hopes that by extending internet access to more young Black people, they will be able to pursue similar paths to success.

“As a Black person, these times with COVID and the civil uprising are sort of filled with a roller coaster of hope and despair,” McClain said. “And this initiative to provide high-speed internet to community members in the Russell neighborhood is one that fills me with hope.”

Fischer also announced the completion of Phase 1 of the Louisville Fiber Internet Technology project. The project added 100 miles to the city’s existing 21.3 miles of fiber network.

Fischer Addresses Protests, COVID-19

After his comments regarding the technological projects, Fischer defended Louisville Metro Police’s recent crackdown on protests.

LMPD announced yesterday it will no longer allow caravans or protesters to occupy streets or block traffic. Fischer expressed concerns over protesters trapping cars and property damage that occurred at Fourth Street Live over the weekend.

“We can’t have that,” he said. “We’ve got to have some orderliness to the city so regular citizens can go about their day-to-day activity. And you can still protest while you’re doing that, but you can do so peacefully.”

Fischer also noted that no new cases of COVID-19 were reported at Louisville Metro Department of Corrections over the weekend.

Last week, the number of positive cases in the jail nearly tripled from 44 to 124. Fischer says that it’s important for the next Congressional relief package to include direct aid to local and state governments to help combat the virus.

“This is going to be increasingly a problem for us and cities of all sizes across the country,” he said. “So we’ve got to encourage them to get this deal done. It’s a matter of life and death for many people.”

The jail is using a cohort strategy to group inmates who have tested positive together. Close contacts are also quarantined and given twice-daily temperature and symptom checks.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.