The city of Tucson is moving forward with a plan to expand access to free, public Wi-Fi throughout the city, particularly in areas that are suffering from a “digital divide.”
The Tucson City Council voted to use $4.4 million of federal CARES Act money — provided to local governments through the Coronavirus Relief Fund — to fund the city wi-fi expansion plan.
Using Census data, officials identified which areas of the city were most impacted by the digital divide by looking at income levels, population and whether there was coverage available from other broadband services such as CenturyLink and Cox.
The data showed that 10,798 households in the city do not have access to the internet. Covering nearly 20 square miles and targeting the most economically impacted areas of the city, the plan will reach nearly 54,000 households and over 116,000 people. The districts that will benefit from the plan include Tucson Unified, Flowing Wells Unified and Amphitheater school districts.
The goal, if additional funding exists, is to move out into other neighborhoods that are in the lighter red or orange because there’s a deficiency in those areas as well.” The proof of concept areas, which are expected to be up and running by early November, are located at Midvale Park, Menlo Park, Freedom Park and the Garden District. Up to 47% of people in these areas are without broadband access.
The benefits will extend beyond in-home internet access, allowing officials to use this same infrastructure to develop smart traffic control technology.
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