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Posted on Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

EMU partners with Wireless Ypsi to provide free Internet access to 2 low-income housing developments

By Katrease Stafford

Two low-income Ypsilanti housing developments now have free wireless Internet access because of an initiative spearheaded by an Eastern Michigan University program and Wireless Ypsi.


Eight youths participated in the project.

Courtesy of Jack Bidlack

EMU’s Business Side of Youth program, Digital Inclusion, partnered with Wireless Ypsi to provide Internet access for Hollow Creek and Paradise Manor housing developments.

The Ypsilanti Housing Commission is footing the bill for the Internet services, which will amount to $50 per month for each location, according to Interim Director Eric Temple.

Hollow Creek, at 124 S. Grove Road, has 20 housing units and Paradise Manor, at 944 W. Michigan Ave., has 36 units.

Digital Inclusion is a youth development program and a social enterprise mostly for ages 16-19, although this particular project had participants in the 14-22 age range.

Participants in the program are trained by EMU students in computer refurbishing and software installation. The youths go through an 8-10 week training session to familiarize themselves with the software.

The Southside Ypsilanti Wireless Project occurred Aug. 14 and was supported by the James A. and Faith Knight Foundation and the Workforce Investment Act.

Jack Bidlack, director of the B. Side, said the nearly $16,000 grant from the foundation covered the costs for the project. The program is self sustainable, Bidlack said, and only seeks additional funding for projects they're unable to afford.

"It's a very gracious amount," Bidlack said. "With that money, we were able to do this."

Bidlack, along with eight Digital Inclusion students and Wireless Ypsi co-founder Steve Pierce spent the day installing and testing the new wireless expansion.


Paradise Manor

Courtesy photo

Pierce trained the youth, and each participant had the chance to see an installation done, perform an installation and teach the next group how to install the routers.

Ten wireless repeaters were installed on the two sites, allowing residents access to the Internet.

The day after the initial installation, Bidlack said they returned to do some troubleshooting and were surprised to see how many people were utilizing the services.

"In the one community alone, there were 77 people that logged in," Bidlack said.

Pierce said the installations were the most he's ever done in one day. The installation took nearly 10 hours.

"It's rocking away now," Pierce said. "Sometimes we'll have up to a 100 using it a day."

Pierce said he volunteered his time for this project so that Wireless Ypsi will continue to reach more parts of the community. Currently, more than 1,500 people use the free Internet service.

"It's critical," he said. "That’s why I wanted to get it in public housing."

Bidlack said these two communities were chosen because it's important to "bridge the digital divide."

"If we don't keep our communities and kids up to par, they're going to fall way behind," he said. "If you can't get to the Web, you can't do your homework. We're trying to get them to the place that everything is taking place, which is online. I think it's fantastic that we're able to do this work in some of the most desperate areas."

Digital Inclusion.JPG

Wireless Ypsi Founder Steve Pierce helped install the wireless Internet at the two locations.

Courtesy of Jack Bidlack

Looking toward the future, Bidlack said he would like to expand access throughout the community.

“We'll continue to look for possibilities," he said. "If there's a funder out there who wants to fund the project, we'll gladly go out there."

Before school begins, Digital Inclusion and its youth staff will return to Hollow Creek and Paradise Manor as well as the Parkridge Community Center to update the computer labs. All three communities have learning centers on site and the youth will completely revamp all of the systems.

Many of the young people involved in Digital Inclusion come from low- income communities, which are some of the ones they are servicing through their work.

"This is what the program was designed for," Bidlack said. "(The participants) take this knowledge back to their communities."

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Sat, Sep 8, 2012 : 11:54 p.m.

This is a very cool thing, and we can only hope the routers and other hardware don't wind up in a computer recycle shop somewhere.

Albert M. Berriz

Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

Jack Bidlack has done a marvelous job with B Side! BRAVO Jack the work you are doing with our youth on the east side is extraordinary. I am so happy that you and B Side are getting this very well deserved coverage. Thanks Jack and thanks also to Lisa Dengiz for originally connected me with B Side! BRAVO!


Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

And Kudos to you, Mr. Berriz, for all the charitable work that you do


Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

HELLO this is great NEWS, SO I hope our Housing /Building is NEXT....! TOWNE CENTRE PLACE in Ypsi. We have been in contact for quit a while bUt We are hopeful we WIll be next. see you here ...Steve.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

Most adults have no idea how essential internet and computer access is for contemporary students. Having internet access and reliable computer labs means that students can use grade-keeping software and online academic planners, read texts that have been made available online to save students a trip to the library (schools don't have funds to make photocopies for each student), utilize online dictionaries, participate in "flipped" classrooms, watch online tutorials, use word-processing software, and more. Computers and internet access are available at school, but many students have after-school responsibilities (caring for younger siblings, for example) that prevent them from staying late to use computer resources in school. I admire people who put their money and their time where their mouths are. Thank you to Mr. Pierce and Mr. Bidlack. You have really helped the kids of Ypsilanti.


Tue, Sep 4, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

The last Governor Granholm promised Computer for Every child !


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

Steve Pierce, you rock! Jack too! Wow what a couple of great citizens. Two lives making a positive difference in the wireless install at a time. I just picked up Wireless Ypsi at a local restaurant and thought of Steve. Citizen Steve you beat the heck out of any local politician I can think of! Good job guys.


Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

Good for everyone involved!

Chase Ingersoll

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

I for one think that being Mayor of Ypsilanti is in some ways a waste of time for Steve Pierce. He is just too damn good and at identifying things that can be done and getting them done, without the involvement of politics. Jack Bidlack has the same mindset. Once again, private initiative and charitable associations are raising the standard of living for everyone in a cost effective, sustainable and 100% positive fashion.

Lisa D

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

This is a fantastic project! Thanks to Jack Bidlack for the fine leadership and vision you continue to provide to deserving youth and the wider community. The Digital Inclusion Project of the B Side is a brilliant way to help level the playing field and will help alter the course of so many lives. Thanks also to business man and community leader Steve Pierce for your commitment, vision, hard work to make this special partnership and project come to fruition.

tom swift jr.

Mon, Sep 3, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

This seems like a great project. It brings technology to those that might not otherwise be able to afford it. It provides training and a foot in the door to kids, and also allows them the sense of giving something to the community. And, I love the fact that it is defined as "self sustaining"! Kudos to all involved!