We are delighted to have Cyndi Barrera, Sales Vice President for State, Local, and Education (SLED) West at Presidio as guest blogger on our channel.
Think about your daily patterns at home. Turn on the light switch, pour a drink of water, grab your phone. Using that phone you’ll check the news, do some shopping, and pay a few bills online. The internet access you rely on every day is vital for telehealth, job market information and educational opportunities.
The transition to the internet of everything is great unless you’re one of the millions of people in the US living in under-connected communities without easy access to online connectivity.
A lack of internet access is now a considerable disadvantage. Kids who are unable to get online at home are more likely to have difficulty in school and risk getting lower grades. And most job postings and public information is found online these days, with much of it online only. During the pandemic, access to Wi-Fi was 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 that ground-breaking five-year commitment is still years away from completion. There are neighborhoods in the City that struggle to access affordable and reliable internet connectivity.
The City decided it would take action to bridge this digital divide by providing free public Wi-Fi to 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. Given that the city was able to leverage federal funding, we were able to put together an achievable solution to provide Wi-Fi to residents of five targeted neighborhoods, and do so in just weeks.
Technology to meet the challenge
The project design was in progress in just two weeks. Equipment was being ordered within a couple of months. The solution would include Cisco Ultra-Reliable Wireless Backhaul radios (Cisco URWB), Cisco Industrial Ethernet 3300 Rugged Series switches, and Cisco Meraki MR86 access points, which were placed strategically across the neighborhoods on poles or outside public buildings. With this approach, the City was able to provide essential Wi-Fi coverage to the most under-connected areas during the multi-year deployment of city-wide fiber. It would cost less than half of fiber, and be ready to go much sooner.
As part of the project, Presidio worked out where 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 along the way, which was challenging at times to work around weather conditions.
The rewards of digital equality
So far, the City provides free public Wi-Fi access to 40,000 people in 10,000 households, with another 5,000 households due to come online very soon. The Cisco URWB Radios enable the 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 will find safe internet browsing.
Cisco Cloud management solutions help provide easy network management and any interruptions, such as service outages, are flagged immediately. This kind of simplicity is a real advantage for the City. And when the fiber roll-out is complete, the technology will continue to ensure that Fort Worth has a future-ready environment for years to come.
Cyndi Barrera has over 20 years of experience in digital, data and technology-based roles. She serves as Sales Vice President for State, Local, and Education (SLED) West at Presidio, which specializes in designing, implementing, and managing agile, secure digital platforms. Presidio is a Cisco partner focused on developing joint solutions and collaborative support to achieve desired business outcomes for customers across the globe.