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Mesa will spend $4M to boost internet access for underserved students

The city council voted Monday to spend federal relief on constructing a network of cellular towers for families lacking access to the internet.

MESA, Ariz. — Editor's Note: The video above is from an earlier broadcast.

The Mesa City Council voted unanimously Monday to spend $4.5 million on expanding internet access to local students in the city's western neighborhoods.  

The city intends to partner with Mesa Public Schools to use federal money allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act to build a network of 21 cellular radio towers for families lacking broadband access.

"To address the digital divide experienced by underserved communities of Mesa school students during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City is building broadband internet infrastructure to get access to the students in greatest need," city records state.

This five-year contract will provide the hardware for a 4G LTE outdoor cellular network using the Citizens Broadband Radio Service radio band to cover 10 square miles of west Mesa.

The network would mainly affect residents living in council districts 1, 3, and 4 -- all located west of Val Vista Drive. Up to 2,100 students could benefit from the infrastructure project, records show.  

Communities throughout Arizona have been attempting to improve internet connectivity in recent years due to the fact that the pandemic has forced many families to learn and work from home. 

A 2020 survey done by the Arizona Department of Education shows 81% of respondents had a major concern regarding a lack of internet connectivity in their homes.

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