The California State Transportation Agency, the City of Sacramento, and the Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) are teaming up to turn buses into free wireless super hotspots in communities with limited high-speed internet access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Testing for the 60-day proof of concept began Friday, with the first three Wi-Fi Buses going live Monday, to promote opportunities for distance learning, telework, and telehealth. Seven additional buses will be deployed to more “digital desert” communities across Sacramento beginning the week of Monday, May 11. Buses will provide 3½ hours of wireless broadband service at two locations each day, with updated schedules available at thewifibus.com.

The 10 repurposed Wi-Fi Buses are outfitted with combinations of equipment provided free of charge by proof of concept partners AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Cradlepoint, Sierra Wireless, and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, to offer high-speed connectivity with a range of up to 1,800 feet.

Hotspot locations and protocols will be determined in collaboration between the City of Sacramento, Valley Vision, Sacramento Public Library, SacRT, the California State Transportation Agency, and public health officials. High-need locations will be selected with input from local school districts, community organizations, and digital divide research, as well as the ability for users to maintain physical distancing and follow public health guidelines. The Sacramento Public Library will provide bus parking at its branches and robust online resources for students to access when connected to the Wi-Fi Bus network.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the project on April 20 as part of the state’s efforts to support distance learning and close the digital divide during the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately one in five students in California lack high-speed internet access and nearly half of all low-income households in the state do not have broadband service at home.

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