COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Council Bluffs officials are celebrating the expansion of its public internet program and mapping out plans to spread free Wi-Fi throughout more of the city.

Organizers of the effort unveiled its second phase Wednesday at a school athletic complex located in the 2½-square-mile section of the city where people have free internet access, according to the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil ( ). At the news conference, students logged onto the internet to check their email and surf the web.

Ensuring access for all students was one goal of the program, which is being planned and financed through a collaboration of several organizations, including the city, school district, Iowa West Foundation and Google, which has a large data center in Council Bluffs.

“We do most of our homework on our computer,” said Wilson Middle School eighth-grader Jaiden Larsen, who was among the students at the event.

David Fringer, the school district’s chief technology officer, said organizers will expand the program in 10 phases, with the next likely completed this fall. When all phases are implemented, Fringer said Council Bluffs’ free program would be among the largest in the world.

Private sponsors are paying the $850,000 cost of the first three phases.

The public internet followed Google’s donation of Chromebook computers to the school district through a “one-to-one initiative.”

“When we implemented one-to-one, we thought, ‘This is great,'” Roosevelt Elementary Principal Mark Schuldt said. “Then we realized it wasn’t truly one-to-one, it was limited.”

By ensuring students have access to the internet, Schuldt said officials would expand students’ ability to learn.

“Kids don’t have to be in that brick and mortar building to learn,” he said. “It’s transformed our ability to teach.”

Information from: The Daily Nonpareil,