Saddleback opens its first WiFi parking lot

Pixabay via geralt

WiFi services will be offered in parking lot 10 until Dec. 16 in order to assist students with unreliable internet connections

After student’s feedback exposing unreliable internet service, Saddleback College opened its first WiFi parking lot on Nov. 30  located in parking lot 10. Students will be asked to remain inside their cars and there will be distance between parking spots. 

Students using the lot should enter using the Marguerite and Medical Center Drive entrance. In addition to the social distancing protocol, students will be asked to access restrooms and food off-campus.

Unreliable internet service became a national issue when states began stay-at-home orders like California did on March 19. With all schools across California shutting down in response to the coronavirus, completing schoolwork meant doing it at home.

In response to students all over the nation experiencing slow internet speeds and problematic connections hindering performance in the new online school setting, many schools implemented the use of WiFi parking lots or even school busses equipped with internet connections for students to use in their own neighborhoods.

Saddleback is the latest to join in on offering resources to students who aren’t able to have their own. Orange County launched its WiFi on Wheels program on Oct. 27 along with public libraries offering WiFi to those in need of the internet. 

“All of my classes are virtual so I’m living at home in O.C.,” said Kaylee Halliday, a student at San Diego State University. “The few days that [my parents] work from home I do notice a difference in the stability of the WiFi, and it makes it harder to do the work I need, especially since I usually need to have multiple tabs open at once.”

For many, internet connections can be impacted negatively due to how many users are on the connection or because of what is offered in their location. With online school the new norm for most Californians until at least the end of spring semesters, internet reliability is a critical component in student success.

Another issue presented in the online class environment can be the lack of motivation to do class work while at home. This, coupled with a loss of routine activities like getting ready for the day and then heading to school, can negatively affect some students like Dante Fornaro, a sophomore at Saddleback.

“But I think the ability to wake up in the morning get dressed and go to a WiFi parking lot will allow students to focus more,” Fornano said in an Instagram message. “It’s really hard for me to focus from my bedroom.”

Saddleback’s offering of internet access to students comes just a couple of weeks after the City of Mission Viejo recognized the internet provider Cox Communications as a partner in education. Cox has been offering discounted rates and even free months of internet service to those who qualify. Their Connect2Compete service is offering up to four months of complimentary internet services to those who qualify for it.

“My WiFi at home is always cutting out, especially when I am on zoom,” said Connor Gross, a Saddleback student. “I am glad more resources are becoming available for people like me who don’t have reliable internet connections.”

On a national scale, online school requirements have intensified support for internet access to be free for all Americans, with many arguing for it as a public utility. This discussion has been ongoing for years, with many believing it to have become a human right.

A study conducted by University of Birmingham concludes that internet access has a “key way of protecting other basic human rights such as life, liberty, and freedom from torture.” Their study highlights the need for internet services in developing nations, as well as in countries like the United States of America where most citizens are already connected.

Saddleback’s WiFi parking lot will be open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The service will be active from Nov. 30 until Dec. 16 in order to help students with their final push through finals and the end of the fall semester. No plans have been announced for another WiFi parking lot in the spring.