Anchor Connectivity Initiative
Providing high-quality broadband for anchor institutions is not only important for the institution itself. In fact, anchors can provide a “jumping off point” to extend broadband connectivity to the surrounding residential and business community. The SHLB Coalition calls this strategy deploying broadband “to and through” the anchor institution.
Dozens of anchor institutions are using wired or wireless technologies to provide low-cost broadband service to unserved or underserved homes. Government policies should foster such investment by ensuring that networks built to serve anchor institutions are also open to interconnection and sharing with the surrounding community. The SHLB Coalition’s Anchor Connectivity Initiative raises awareness of anchor-led projects that extend broadband connectivity to the surrounding community. Promoting broadband networks “to and through” anchor institutions enhances the economic viability of broader community efforts to close the digital divide.
Anchor Connected Communities Series
SHLB launched "Anchor Connected Communities" in May 2022 as a virtual discussion series featuring on-the-ground experts who have led deployments of anchor-facilitated community networks. You can watch the first installments below.
Blink – or Bluffs Community Wi-Fi – is a wireless network established by the Council Bluffs Community School District (CBCSD) and City of Council Bluffs in Iowa that is currently providing free home internet service to nearly 85 percent of the district’s 8,500 students. Launched in 2014, the network was initiated to support the school’s 1:1 learning initiative, but later played a vital role in enabling all CBCSD students to shift seamlessly to at-home learning when the pandemic hit. With dedicated speeds of 10/10 Mbps, the network provides sufficient home connectivity for its students at only a fraction of the cost of the alternatives. The network also serves the general public, extending to public spaces and reaching nearly 40 percent of the homes in the community.
In the July 2022 SHLB Coalition Anchor Connected Communities Series installment, we speak with John Stile, chief technology officer, Council Bluffs Community School District, to learn about the genesis and deployment of this network, including design considerations, technologies, costs, and partnerships.
Early in the pandemic, Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) in California started work on a wireless network to provide broadband to student homes. Existing cellular service and school-provided mobile hotspots were unable to offer adequate connectivity to all students on a consistent basis, prompting the search for supplemental solutions. FUSD decided to develop its own network using CBRS spectrum to reach the un- and underserved students.
For this installment of the Anchor Connected Communities series, Executive Officer of Information Technology at FUSD Philip Neufeld joins us to discuss the genesis and deployment of the district’s wireless network project, including design considerations, technologies used, costs, and partnerships. He also discusses key trade-offs considered in developing and deploying the network, as well as key lessons learned.
Who is SHLB?
Mission: “For every anchor institution in the country to have affordable, high-quality broadband that serves the needs of the institution and is open and accessible to the surrounding community.”