Residents in four Fort Worth neighborhoods will have access to free Wi-Fi sometime after the first of the year, with Rosemont families going online as early as this month.
Back in October the city decided to allocate $5 million of the federal CARES Act dollars to a community Wi-Fi program. An estimated 60,000 Fort Worth residents lack home internet access to resources like virtual classes, job applications and social services. City utility crews began installing the equipment around Rosemont this week.
Rosemont residents could have free internet access by mid-December, said Kevin Gunn, director of the city’s information technology department.
Wi-Fi from a city building, like a community center, will be relayed to receivers on streetlights, traffic signals or other utilities, which will then cast the signal into the surrounding area. Anyone with a Wi-Fi-enabled device, such as a smartphone or laptop, can access the signal. The Wi-Fi ID will be “City of Fort Worth Community WiFi,” Gunn said.
The public Wi-Fi will be filtered, so streaming, gaming or other websites will be blocked. The city will not collect data or track those who use the free signal, Gunn said.
By January these neighborhoods will have access to the community internet:
▪ Stop Six
▪ Ash Crescent
▪ North Side
These are the same neighborhoods the city has targeted for improvements designed to boost safety, aesthetics and investment with part of a municipal property tax used for capital improvement projects. The city estimates that less than 20% of the residents in those neighborhoods have internet access, or more than 8,000 households.
On Tuesday the City Council will approve Como as the next neighborhood to received targeted funding. Funds have already been set aside for an internet program there too.
The city wanted to first consider neighborhoods with high poverty and unemployment rates as well as a diverse population, Gunn said in October.
Because the city must spend the CARES Act dollars by the end of December and the need is greater than the funding available, Gunn said using the Neighborhood Improvement zones was the simplest way to decide where to provide Wi-Fi, but moving forward the city will include internet access in its criteria for choosing neighborhoods for targeted investment.
In Stop Six, for instance, the unemployment rate is above 20% and about 40% of households live in poverty, according to a 2017 city estimate.
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