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Covid-19 Highlighted Lack of Internet Access for City Students

As schools and businesses around the world shut down at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, it became very clear that students were suffering. In addition to the sudden lack of socialization, resources, and – for many children – their only nutritious meals of the day, students were also trying to adapt to a virtual-only learning environment.

Although most students – of all ages – are familiar with mobile and tablet devices, having to suddenly complete all of their lessons and studies online was a major shift. And for those students who don’t have access to the Internet at home, it was a major hurdle to overcome. In the early days of lockdown, the digital divide was brought dramatically to the forefront. It wasn’t uncommon to see school and library parking lots full of students in cars, trying to get a strong enough Wifi signal to complete their lessons and assignments.

Children In Large Cities Have Difficult Time Accessing Wifi

In cities, however, students faced an even larger challenge. Not only did they not have access to Wifi, but due to the pedestrian nature of life in the big city, most places where they might be able to snag a public signal – such as a school or a library – don’t have parking lots.

In New York City, the New York Public Library system decided to do its best to bring Wifi access to those who needed it. Although donors had volunteered to fund an enhanced Wifi solution, the Vice President of Information Technology for NYPL suspected that it simply wouldn’t meet the needs of city students. 

Instead, they decided to evaluate Citizen Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) as a means of extending Internet access to its patrons. Wireless carriers use CBRS to enhance their networks, especially in densely populated areas. Since the Library already has a history of loaning mobile hotspots to patrons, they knew that they’d have the capabilities to monitor and manage the inventory. 

Similarly, in Salt Lake City’s Murray City School District, a plan was put in place before Covid-19 to provide Private LTE to students in grades K-12. With all students currently equipped with Chromebooks, the district wanted to ensure that they could be as connected and successful at home as they are at school. Although their system wasn’t fully capable of reaching most students during the pandemic, there are plans underway to put antennas in strategic places throughout the district to help bridge the digital divide.

Motorola Nitro Provides A Solution and Connectivity In Cities

By using systems like Motorola Nitro, the New York Public Library system was able to deploy a number of test environments across the city. Five of the over 90 New York Public Library branches were outfitted with a CBRS antenna that provides coverage to hundreds of residences under its umbrella. Patrons are able to go to their local library branch and check out a device that allows them to connect to the New York Public Library’s Private LTE network. To raise awareness about the program, Library employees went door to door in the nearby apartment buildings, letting residents know they could check out a device and have instant Internet access at home.

Motorola’s Nitro solution provides twice the capacity and 4 times the range of Wifi, and offers increased reliability. Library patrons and students connected to the system won’t have to worry about slow speeds and connectivity issues as they participate in video conferencing for lessons.

About MCA

MCA provides the solutions and services to provide a robust, end-to-end portfolio for education and public organizations. With the right technologies, you can help keep your facilities safe, improve efficiency and increase productivity. MCA offers engineering services, project managers, system managers, and FCC Licensing to provide you with a full-service team for the successful design, deployment, and lifecycle support of your project.

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