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Wi-Fi to the rescue as governments react to COVID pandemic

State and local governments are working overtime to provide Internet service to all who need it during the pandemic, pushing out a range of ad hoc projects designed to keep members of their communities connected.

With Internet access ever more crucial in the age of social distancing, it seems clear that COVID has deepened the digital divide – less well-off Americans are less likely to have the kind of reliable home Internet connection that they will need in order to work remotely, access important government services and stay in touch with family members.

Some local governments, however, are working to close the gap.

Buses become Wi-Fi hotspots

Improvisation and flexibility are watchwords for the government workers putting these projects together. In Sacramento, chief innovation officer Louis Stewart took advantage of Sacramento Regional Transit District buses idled by a lack of riders to create large, mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, dubbing it the Wi-Fi Bus program. Users can simply connect to the provided Wi-Fi network to get internet access via the Sacramento Public Library’s portal.

Buses were particularly well-suited to the task, as their size makes it easy for them to carry multiple access points while being taller than many trees and other obstructions that could interfere with Wi-Fi signals, he added.

The private sector is a key part of Sacramento’s effort, with Cradlepoint, Aruba, and Sierra wireless all contributing Wi-Fi access points and routers, and major mobile carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile offering wireless backhaul. It helped that, as the capital of California, Sacramento already had government affairs representatives from many companies locally situated.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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