Broadband & Digital Equity

Texas County Contracts to Build Private Wireless Network to Support Rural Students

A Texas county with an all-digital public library is taking on the job of developing a private wireless network to support its rural and economically poor students. Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, recently announced the project, which will serve students in the Southwest Independent School District, as a pilot project. The county is working with nonprofit Southwest Research Institute, under a $900,000 contract, to design and implement the private LTE network, dubbed "BiblioTech Connect." If the project works, it could be scaled up throughout the county, to serve additional districts. The county's BiblioTech Public Library, which opened in 2013, provides a completely digital collection as well as access to technology to all residents.

Southwest ISD found that 11 percent of its students--about 1,500--lacked adequate bandwidth to support digital learning. Across the county, about 21 percent of students lack internet access, according to a 2019 study by the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The providers that are working on the project include Wytec International, a Texas telecommunications firm, which will design the network, and Nokia, which will supply the network technology, including its Nokia Digital Automation Cloud platform.

The new set-up will take advantage of Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum, which has been pushed by the Federal Communications Commission for private networks. According to the vendors, the use of CBRS band can reduce the expense of deployment while supporting features, such as bandwidth control and content filtering.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.