Connected Beyond the Classroom

About the Initiative

According to the 2020 Digital Inclusion Survey and Assessment (DISA), about twenty percent of San Antonio households do not have access to broadband internet in the home there by creating disparities between those that are connected and those that aren’t. COVID-19 is only aggravating those disparities especially for K-12 and colleges/universities.

The City of San Antonio is committed to supporting projects that focus on recovery and resiliency and the Connected Beyond the Classroom initiative will do so by helping to tackle these systemic disparities. Within the project, we propose to build a collaborative, citywide, multi-government agency network between the City and other governmental entities to expand fiber capability and student access in San Antonio, helping mitigate digital divide issues in our community, specifically in student populations, K-12 and colleges/universities.

Initiative Breakdown

Key Stakeholders

  • Alamo Colleges District
  • 8 Independent School Districts
    • EISD
    • SAISD
    • JISD
    • SSAISD
    • HISD
    • NEISD
    • NISD
    • SWISD
  • Digital Inclusion Alliance of San Antonio
  • City Education Partners
  • Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas
  • Texas A&M University, San Antonio

Expected Outcomes

  • Support of a few internal and external digital inclusion efforts that aim to:
    • Meet immediate connectivity needs of students for distance learning
    • Leverage state resources provided through the Texas Education Agency (TEA)
  • The development of a flexible distance learning network that aims to:
    • Improve digital equity throughout San Antonio
    • Support pilot projects to develop, share and scale best practices
    • Provide in-home school system access for up to 20,000 students
    • Mimic their current school technology experience, by having them login to their school network (same login parameters and filters) as if they were using a computer on campus
    • Provide effective speeds and bandwidth to meet distance learning needs
    • Not be dependent on any one technology
    • Leverage collective capabilities and assets of all partners (vendor contracts, buying power, fiber, communication towers, building rooftops, networks, etc.) that can be applied
    • Use multiple funding models to grow and sustain it
    • Use research and data to capture impact and success

Future Potential Benefits

  • Allowing participating governmental entities to exchange information quickly and more efficiently
  • Increasing broadband capabilities to each agency’s internal and external constituents
  • Establishing a platform for new broadband applications for the delivery of services to the public

Priority Neighborhoods

50 priority neighborhoods were identified with digital equity in mind with the following resources:

Approach

  • Identify digital inclusion projects that meet immediate connectivity needs and leverage state resources
  • Identify collective partner capabilities and assets in each target neighborhood
  • Identify applicable technology solutions:
    • Mobile Wireless Broadband (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.)
    • Wireline Services (Charter Communications)
    • Fixed Wireless Broadband Deployment (City/Partner wireless service)
  • Focus on key neighborhoods in
    • SAISD (24)
    • Edgewood (8)
    • Harlandale (2)
    • South San (3)
    • Southwest (4)
    • Judson (1)
    • North East (3)
    • Northside (5)

Proof Of Concept: 16 Square Mile Priority Area

  1. Initial high priority neighborhoods include:
    • Historic Westside
    • Prospect Hill
    • West End Hope in Action
    • Las Palmas
    • Collins Gardens
    • Los Jardines
  2. Overlay each individual school district’s infrastructure with COSANet infrastructure and determine opportunities to connect, share and fill gaps across networks to ensure a successful proof of concept deployment
  3. Stand up new network distribution and wireless access points to reach students using school facilities, traffic signals poles, or other municipal government facilities
  4. Create a new ILA with each individual partner for COSA network use
  5. Build a support and maintenance model to ensure that students can receive Helpdesk services and Break/Fix support for equipment failures of deployed technology.
  6. Development of an End-of-Life and technology refresh cycle to manage long-term sustainment of the Distance Learning Network
  7. Incorporate a holistic evaluation, research, and data plan to capture impact and success

Future Growth: Focus On 50 Priority Neighborhoods

  1. Repeat the success of the proof of concept through the remaining priority neighborhoods
  2. Continue to assess and overlay partner school districts' infrastructure with COSANet infrastructure
  3. Incorporate devices, digital literacy training, and multiple connectivity options for students
  4. Continue to create or add partners to the ILA for shared planning and operating cost of the new network
  5. Continue to incorporate a holistic evaluation, research, and data plan to capture impact and success

Budget

The project cost is $27,000,000. Below are rough estimates, but multiple technology models are still being investigated:

$4M (Capital) - Core infrastructure and fiber connections
The backbone network interconnecting school districts, the College District and the City.
$17M (Capital) - Network access and/or wireless mesh
The wireless connection between the student's home and their home school.
$6M (Capital) - Student connectivity
The equipment installed/available in the home that allows access to the distance learning network.

Timeline: Major Milestones

June 2020

  • Business Case Built
  • User Requirements Identified by 50 Priority Neighborhoods

July 2020

Planning with Independent School Districts and Alamo Community College.

August - September 2020

  • Vendor Bids
  • Contract Planning

October 2020 - May 2021

  • Pilot preparation
  • Assessment
  • Implementation

January - July 2021

Expand to additional neighborhoods within Proof of Concept.

June - December 2021

Continue expanding to remaining neighborhoods.