3 free WiFi options for Dallas ISD families

By Sujata Dand - November 25, 2020

West Dallas

Share this Post

Dallas ISD officials updated the school district on its internet access plan for students this month. District officials say they are continuing to work through an approach to minimize Dallas’ digital divide.

Phase 1: Hot spots distributed

District officials have given out more than 40,000 hot spots to students across the school district. Each hot spot connects to an internet service provider, such as AT&T, Verizon or Spectrum, which have fiber or cable infrastructure in Dallas.

Initially, the hot spots had monthly data limits of 10 gigabytes and many students lost access when the data ran out. The average American household used 268 gigabytes a month in 2018, according to FCC data.

Now, however, the internet providers are not limiting data, says Dallas ISD chief technology officer Jack Kelanic.

“We have found that some students are using 100 gigabytes a month for service,” Kelanic told board members at the October board briefing. “They are not being capped.”

Kelanic did say that not all hot spots work the same in every neighborhood. Some have stronger signals depending on the internet provider that has solid infrastructure in a particular area. The district is working to map where providers have the best service. Now that the district has extra hot spots, they can swap out devices that match a student’s neighborhood.

Now, however, the internet providers are not limiting data, says Dallas ISD chief technology officer Jack Kelanic.

“We have found that some students are using 100 gigabytes a month for service,” Kelanic told board members at the October board briefing. “They are not being capped.”

Kelanic did say that not all hot spots work the same in every neighborhood. Some have stronger signals depending on the internet provider that has solid infrastructure in a particular area. The district is working to map where providers have the best service. Now that the district has extra hot spots, they can swap out devices that match a student’s neighborhood.

“We can try and control those deployments to make sure that we are providing the best potential solution for that student,” Kelanic explained.

A Dallas ISD employee checks shipments of technology devices to be distributed to district campuses. Behind him are two of the 20 boxes that were sent to Lorenzo De Zavala Elementary in West Dallas. Photo courtesy of Dallas ISD Flickr

Any parent or student experiencing technical issues with district technology equipment should contact the information technology (IT) service desk at 972.925.5630or online to report an incident or service request. The IT service desk agent will walk through basic troubleshooting steps, which usually resolves issues.

If the support agents cannot resolve the issue remotely, the student’s parent will be offered a choice to either exchange the equipment at the school (normally a two to three day fulfillment time) or at one of the district’s four repair centers, if same day service is required. In either case, the non-functioning equipment must be returned.

Phase 2: Free wired subscriptions

Kelanic says there are still some areas where there are inherent limitations in service. Poor infrastructure could also be a reason that a hot spot is not working properly. It simply may not be able to connect to a wireless network.

The district will be reaching out to families whose hot spots are not working properly and don’t have internet service based on school district data. Those families will be contacted over the next three to four weeks to see if they are interested in free wired line subscriptions. The district wants to install those wired lines in families’ homes by the end of the year.

Dallas ISD students still have the option of participating in virtual school from their homes, but not all families have reliable access to the internet. Photo courtesy of Dallas ISD Flickr

With board approval, the first year of service will be covered by the Texas Education Agency. The second year will be paid for by Dallas ISD. This plan is expected to cost the state and the school district between $5 million to $10 million per year.

The district does not have a plan in place for year three. However, DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa repeatedly has said that the district would not leave families without internet access. The passage of the 2020 bond may be the funds district officials will rely on to make sure all areas in the school district are connected.

Phase 3: Creating infrastructure in areas that most need it

Meanwhile, the district has a virtual wireless network plan scheduled to pilot over the coming months in five high school attendance zones: Pinkston, Roosevelt, South Oak Cliff, Lincoln and Spruce. The goal is to provide wireless coverage to areas with the greatest needs.

Private wireless networks will extend the broadband signal from a tower at each school to homes within a two-mile radius, allowing DISD families to access internet in their homes for free. Families will receive wireless modems that will allow them to connect to the high school’s WiFi tower.

The project is expected to take between three to 12 months to become fully operational.

This story was co-published by our media partner, the Dallas Weekly.


Share this Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    X