City of Fort Worth fast-tracks free Wi-Fi access in under-connected areas

City of Fort Worth fast-tracks free Wi-Fi access in under-connected areas

We are delighted to have Cyndi Barrera, Sales Vice President for State, Local, and Education (SLED) West at the Presidio as a guest blogger on our channel.

Think about your daily patterns at home. Turn on the light switch, pour some water, pick up your phone. With that phone, you’ll check the news, shop, and pay some bills online. The internet access you expect every day is essential for telehealth, job market information and educational opportunities.

Everyone’s internet transition is great unless you’re one of the millions of people in the US who live in under-connected communities without easy access to online connectivity.

Lack of internet access is now a major drawback. Kids who can’t get online at home are more likely to struggle in school and risk getting lower grades. And most job postings and public information can be found online these days, most of which are online only. During a pandemic, access to Wi-Fi is a clear lifeline. And in recent years, more and more routine processes have become fully digital.

An achievable solution

The City of Fort Worth, Texas has a trailblazing history of innovation and is in the early stages of its strategic plan to provide fiber connections to all residents. But the ground-breaking five-year commitment is still years away. There are neighborhoods in the City that struggle to access affordable and reliable internet connections.

The City decided it would take action to bridge this digital divide by providing free public Wi-Fi in the most affected neighborhoods.

Our team at Presidio partnered with Cisco to develop a plan and design a solution that could quickly respond to this critical need. Because the city was able to leverage federal funding, we were able to put together an affordable solution to provide Wi-Fi to residents of five targeted neighborhoods, and do so in just weeks.

Technology to meet the challenge

The design of the project was carried out in just two weeks. The equipment was ordered within a few months. The solution includes Cisco Ultra-Reliable Wireless Backhaul radios (Cisco URWB), Cisco Industrial Ethernet 3300 Rugged Series switches, and Cisco Meraki MR86 access points, placed in strategic neighborhoods on poles or outside public buildings. With this approach, the City was able to provide valuable Wi-Fi coverage to less-connected areas during a multi-year deployment of city-wide fiber. It costs less than half the fiber, and is ready sooner.

As part of the project, Presidio adjusted where the equipment should be placed to ensure the best possible coverage, while avoiding signal interference from trees and other obstacles. The Presidio team also supported the deployment and fixed issues while traveling, which the weather conditions sometimes made difficult.

The rewards of digital equality

Today, the City provides free public Wi-Fi access to 40,000 people in 10,000 households, with another 5,000 households soon to come online. Cisco URWB Radios enable Wi-Fi service for users as ‘set it and forget it.’ And with Cisco Umbrella security filtering content, even the youngest residents in the area can find safe internet browsing.

Cisco Cloud management solutions help provide easy network management and any disruptions, such as service outages, are flagged immediately. This kind of simplicity is a real advantage for the City. And once the fiber roll-out is complete, the technology will continue to ensure that Fort Worth has a future-ready environment for years to come.

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Cyndi Barrera has more than 20 years of experience in digital, data and technology-based roles. He serves as Sales Vice President for State, Local, and Education (SLED) West at Presidio, specializing in the design, implementation, and management of agile, secure digital platforms. Presidio is a Cisco partner committed to building joint solutions and collaborative support to achieve desired business outcomes for customers around the world.