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McAllen
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City, School District share national connectivity award

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Pictured above from left to right are Roosevelt Elementary Principal Albert Irlas, Board Trustee Larry Esparza, Board Trustee Debbie Crane Aliseda, Frontera Consulting Co-Founder Drew Lentz, McAllen ISD Superintendent Dr. J.A. Gonzalez, City of McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, District 6 City Commissioner Veronica Whitacre, District 3 City Commissioner Omar Quintanilla, District 5 City Commissioner Victor Haddad, and City of McAllen IT Director Robert Acosta.
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A collaboration of city government, McAllen ISD and a local technology company has benefitted McAllen families and led to a national award. 

The 2020 Connectivity Hero of the Year award presentation took place on Thursday, March 4, at McAllen ISD’s Roosevelt Elementary School. 

Mayor Jim Darling, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. J.A. Gonzalez and Frontera Consulting Co-Founder Drew Lentz collaborated to deploy a community-wide fixed wireless broadband and outdoor Wi-Fi access network serving thousands of students. 

Design and deployment were completed in a matter of weeks last fall, resulting in internet access opportunities for many students, faculty and citizens who otherwise would not have easy and affordable access.

This gives McAllen a citywide wireless internet after it partnered with technology providers Federated Wireless and Cambium Networks to deploy a Wi-Fi network for its community. The network came as part of an effort to reduce the digital divide, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cambium Networks selected McAllen as the award winner.

 When CARES Act funding became available, City of McAllen leaders focused on investing $3.1 million to install 1,000 Wi-Fi hot spots from south McAllen and throughout the community, in neighborhoods where internet access would not be readily available. 

This city of 140,000 people, including 21,600 students, now has 24 base stations and 1,000 outdoor Wi-Fi access points mounted on utility poles, with the network using the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) shared spectrum under a contract between the city and Frontera Consulting at no cost to the city. 

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The network’s deployment came on the heels of McAllen ISD resuming classes last August. Most McAllen ISD students have relied on remote learning (learning from home via technology) this school year. Since 2011, McAllen ISD students have had access to an individual electronic learning device. Currently, elementary students (pre-kinder-5th grade) use an iPad and secondary students (grades 6-12) use a Chromebook. 

In addition, McAllen ISD has distributed approximately 11,000 Hot Spot devices to assist families with connectivity. 

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