More reliable and higher quality internet could be coming to Fort Worth’s underserved areas.
Fort Worth City Council approved a $7.5 million, 34-year contract with Dallas-based Sprocket Networks Inc. for broadband infrastructure. The contract authorizes the installation of an approximately 300-mile network to build up the city’s government communication needs while connecting residents and businesses with internet in locations designated as underserved.
Kevin Gunn, IT Solutions director for the city, said this partnership with Sprocket will bring tremendous benefits to the city.
“It’s really a win-win,” Gunn said. “We see opportunities to recruit and attract more (internet-focused) businesses to locate their facilities here in Fort Worth. And that brings high-paying jobs to the area, that brings new developments and construction to the area.”
Around 17% of residents in Fort Worth don’t have access to high-speed internet and 8% have no internet access at all, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey. Most of those residents live in neighborhoods such as Las Vegas Trail, Como, Marine Creek, Stop Six, Rosemont and Ash Crescent.
For those who have some internet access, that connection is below the standard 100 megahertz required for remote work, remote education and remote doctor’s visits, Gunn said.
Now that the contract is approved, the next hurdle is to get the network constructed. Gunn said that the process will take around three years to complete. Construction crews will be mobilized over the next six to nine months.
While the construction of the network will take three years, service will become available on a rolling basis, Gunn said.
The city put out the request for proposals to create a broadband plan for Fort Worth back in February 2022. By adding cabling in community and government facilities such as libraries and fire stations in neighborhoods in need, staff hopes to fill the gaps in the network.
Gaps in broadband access were further exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic when students had to switch to remote learning, and patients and doctors switched to telehealth.
American Rescue Plan Act funds and grant funds from the North Central Texas Council of Governments will fund the plan’s implementation.
Fort Worth took an initial step in bridging the internet gap in 2020 through 2022 to bring free Wi-Fi to community centers in underserved areas.
Those wireless internet spots will be phased out progressively as the city installs its fiber optic network. Unlike those fiber optics, wireless networks have limited lifespans, Gunn said.
Texas is also looking to create a $1.5 billion broadband state fund to help finance some of these projects. A constitutional amendment establishing that fund is currently on the ballot for this November election.
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @ssadek19.
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