Broadband & Digital Equity
Harris County Building Private LTE Network to Reach Rural Families
- By Dian Schaffhauser
The Texas county
that houses Houston will be rolling out a private LTE network using
Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum. The major
beneficiary for the initial phase will be families with students that
lack high-speed internet access. The project is being funded with
CARES Act money.
Harris County, the
third most populous county in the country, chose Motorola
Solutions' Nitro to connect families in rural areas.
The deployment will start with five sites delivering connectivity to
about 1,000 households. The project planners hope to set up an
additional 26 fixed and mobile sites by the end of the year, with the
capacity to support more than 6,000 households. According to
Broadband USA, nearly 14% of households in the county — an
estimated 640,000 people — lack access.
The project also
involves giving CBRS modems to people whose homes are covered by the
network, which will enable those families to have in-home WiFi. Those
are being made available free and anonymously through local
Harris County is
also expecting to provide free SIM cards for CBRS-capable devices,
such as smartphones.
and resulting need for remote and hybrid learning models highlighted
the inequities that exist within our communities when it comes to
reliable internet access," said Dominic Tong, executive director
of technology infrastructure and engineering at Aldine
Independent School District, in a statement. "However,
these inequities existed long before. All of our students need
at-home internet for research, homework and college applications, and
we're grateful for the county's investment in private broadband,
which will provide our students with the connectivity needed to
support academic success."
As the work unfolds,
the county will reach out to additional community organizations, to
communicate the availability and benefit of the network to all
residents who lack regular access to internet. That includes setting
up a "digital taskforce" to connect specifically with
senior citizens and others, who may want to use the internet for
online doctor visits, banking, community services and job
planners are envisioning a time when the network backhaul will also
support improvements in the county's service and public safety
focus has been on connecting students and families, but we also have
an eye to what will be possible in the future with a foundation of
strong, private broadband supporting our county operations,"
said Jim McMillan, senior director of public safety technology for
the county. "The backhaul that Motorola Solutions is providing
will allow us to capture and harness data from meters, sensors and
cameras across the city to improve the delivery of county services
and inform the work of our public safety agencies."
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.