BOISE — With many teachers and students working and studying remotely during the pandemic, a local company is offering a service to help improve an essential tool for the virtual classroom: Wi-Fi.
MetaGeek, a Boise-based technology company, is offering free home Wi-Fi help to anyone involved in remote learning nationwide. The service helps students and teachers identify issues in their home Wi-Fi network and reduce instances of freezing, buffering and connectivity issues that can put a strain on remote learning.
Founder and “chief geek” Ryan Woodings said MetaGeek, a 15-year-old business with a few dozen employees, has historically offered Wi-Fi help to mid-sized and large businesses with expansive internet networks. MetaGeek works with companies throughout the country, but the pandemic dried up much of that business, as employees began working remotely.
That’s why this summer Woodings started talking to friends and neighbors about their Wi-Fi problems at home.
“Before COVID-19 residential Wi-Fi wasn’t that important,” Woodings said. “As soon as COVID-19 hit, and all of us are working from home and trying to make sure that our home Wi-Fi works, home Wi-Fi became essential.”
For teachers and students — and parents helping their children with virtual learning — Wi-Fi problems add “a little bit of stress to an already stressful day,” Woodings said.
Launched in August, MetaGeek’s new residential service, Rampart for Education, is free for the first 90 days. The service — done completely online through a digital application — includes a Wi-Fi audit and provides data on the user’s home network. The audit includes scans of signal strength in each room of the house, so a user can pick the best place to work or study. There also is a daily check, which tells users whether their internet service is strong before they go online for the day.
Eric Thies, a teacher and the president of the West Ada Education Association, said Wi-Fi issues affect scheduling for virtual days, a particular challenge for high school teachers who have students for single class periods. If a teacher isn’t able to log-in for 10 or 15 minutes of a class, that’s a third of the instruction that day, missed because of technical difficulties, Thies said.
“There’s nothing that a school district can do about that,” he said. “It’s the tech in the teacher’s home. That’s obviously one of the really big struggles is making sure that the teachers have the right technology at home so that they can properly engage students.”
Thies said getting through the pandemic “has to be a community effort. And of Rampart for Education, he said, “Whether this is a service that teachers use or not, the fact that the company’s willing to provide support for teachers and help them during this time is absolutely fantastic, and I can’t appreciate that enough.”
Rampart for Education has about 100 sign-ups per day, Woodings said, but he would like to see that grow to 1,000.
Woodings, who has two school-aged children and is married to Boise City Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings, said many families are “struggling to just keep afloat.” While Wi-Fi isn’t the most important thing right now, when it doesn’t work properly, “it can be that last straw” among daily challenges, he said.
“If we can do something to help everybody through these crazy times we’re in, that’d be great,” Woodings said.
For information on MetaGeek’s Rampart for Education, visit my.metageek.com/rampart-home/education-trials.