As the new year kicks off in schools across the state, virtual learning will be difficult for families to adjust to — especially for those without WiFi or struggle to connect with the internet. 

The Michigan Public Service Commission is promoting its WiFi map, marking places where there is public internet that anyone can connect to. The hotspot map launched earlier this summer. 

“While public Wi-Fi hot spots are not a replacement for home connectivity, these locations offer Michigan families the ability to access and download remote learning resources for free and without the risk of further transmission of the virus,” MPSC’s press release reads. 

The map gathers data from entities and individuals who report to Connected Nation Michigan, a public-private organization the state is working with that aims to expand broadband accessibility across the state. 

To find free internet access points, go to the map and enter your address under “Locate WiFi Hotspots”. You can also adjust how close or far you are able to drive to get to the WiFi destination. 

The map then provides the address where the WiFi is available as well as the network’s name, where to get the password, and possible parking information. 

For example, if you live in Detroit, Wayne State University’s multiple buildings would be your best bet. Wayne State’s network name is WSU-PUBLIC and it has no password. Some of these WiFi spots include:

  • WSU’s University Towers on 4500 Cass Avenue
  • WSU’s Welcome Center on 42 West Warren Avenue
  • WSU’s Medical Commons on 320 East Canfield Avenue 

Most of these hotspots are colleges, public libraries, or city halls. However, there are some exceptions: if you are in Roscommon in Northern Michigan, you can head to Up North Voice, an outlet focusing on community and positive news, on Lake Street. If you are in Bay City, the local fire station has WiFi. Stone and Bar Grill, a restaurant in Hubbard Lake, is also providing internet services. 

CNMI’s disclaimer states the organization does not fact-check the data and if private property is on the map, the CNMI map is not granting permission to users to enter. The site recommends individuals to stay in their cars and maintain social distancing.

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Despite creating the map, MPSC also acknowledges the gaps in internet accessibility. According to the Michigan Department of Education, over 70% of the state’s students are using internet devices for school work, but more than 28% of students are living in homes without internet access.  The map itself has large pockets of areas without hotspots, getting particularly scarce when you leave metropolitan regions or get closer to the Upper Peninsula.

The state currently has federal grants and pandemic stimulus checks to help expand WiFi networks. 

“We know that there’s a long way to go to ensure everyone is connected through broadband in Michigan,” MPSC Commissioner Tremaine Phillips said in the release. “In the interim, we have to do all that we can to increase accessibility so that Michigan’s children don’t lose out on their education during this very challenging time.” 

Nisa Khan is a data intern for the Detroit Free Press. Contact her at nkhan@freep.com and follow her on Twitter @mnisakhan. 

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