Arlington opens public Wi-Fi area in east side of city

Arlington residents can now connect to a public Wi-Fi network in a select area on the east side of the city.

The city’s Smart Lighting and Neighborhood Wi-Fi Project aims to provide the public with equal access to the internet and efficiently manage energy consumption, according to a city of Arlington press release.

Funding for both projects was approved in October 2020, and construction was completed this September, according to the release.

Susan Schrock, city of Arlington communications coordinator, said the city is excited about the pilot program, and they want residents to test it out and see if it is a good fit.

The smart lighting is run by photocells that draw power from the sun. The wireless network is attached to the light pole so both can run on the same power source, said Jimmie Marks, city of Arlington IT project manager

The Public Works and Transportation department was planning to implement smart lighting and saw the opportunity to combine it with free public Wi-Fi, Marks said.

Residents and visitors can connect to the network if they are in the area and select #ArlingtonWiFi in the Wi-Fi settings to connect, according to the press release. The connection speeds are limited to 10MB upload and download.

The access points are located between East Abram Street to the north, Sherry Street to the east, East Park Row Drive to the south and New York Avenue to the west, according to the release.

There are 88 different access points covering the area, Marks said. The network was designed for outdoor connectivity, so standing closer to the street lights will provide stronger connections.

The city selected this area after the American Community Survey provided data about population, income levels and households without internet services, according to the release.

According to the survey, 18% of the 1,164 households within the area have insufficient access to home internet. The free Wi-Fi will help people with job searches, remote working, distance learning and other online services, according to the release.

Schrock said the city is currently working on this pilot program in the selected area only.

The Unity Council recommended improved internet access in their February report to the Arlington City Council.

Esteban Blanco, former member of the Unity Council Economic Disparities subcommittee, said he was concerned none of the recommendations from the Unity Council would be implemented. He said it is rewarding to see the work being started.

“The internet has become a necessity more than a luxury for everybody,” Blanco said. “ The pandemic demonstrated that without a shadow of a doubt.”


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