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Phoenix digital divide solution, ‘PHX DECC’ connects 250K families

Collaborative effort delivers free broadband WiFi to 250,000 families in Phase I

PHOENIX (August 25, 2021) – Phoenix solves the digital divide: a silver lining from the pandemic.

“In this highly technological world, tech access should not be a privilege; it should be a right,” said Dr. Chad Gestson, Superintendent, Phoenix Union High School District.

Phoenix has found a solution, the Phoenix Digital Education Connection Canopy, to the challenge of bringing broadband digital education access to students. The collaboration by city of Phoenix, Phoenix College and Phoenix Union High School District bridges the digital divide with a cost-efficient, scalable and replicable system for any size community or school district.

The PHX DECC program covers 250,000 families and will cost less than $34 million. PHX DECC is a high-speed broadband cost-efficient delivery using existing technology. Using Federal CARES Act and ARPA funds to seed the project with contributions from others in the collaborative effort, the program fits the districts’ existing IT staff, budget and technology maintenance programs.

Unlike similar attempts elsewhere, in Phoenix, businesses and telecommunication broadband companies are supporting this solution.

Key story facts

  • The PHX DECC provides free high-speed, wireless intranet connections from students into their schools’ virtual classrooms, teacher conferences, homework assignments, and curated digital resources
  • A Phoenix collaboration of city, college, school district and business community found a solution to the digital divide
  • The solution is rapidly scalable to any student population
  • The key is cost-efficient, uses existing technology and is simple to install and deploy
  • Phoenix Community College engineered the working solution
  • The first phase cost $34 million and serves 250,000 families
  • City of Phoenix used the federal CARES Act funding to seed the project; the college and three school districts also contributed to the project
  • The system uses existing technology, does not require proprietary hardware or software and can be maintained by existing school district staff within most school district budgets or with minor cost increases
  • Students cannot use the system to access external social media and chat, music or video streaming, or access the Internet. It is this feature that generates support from ISPs and telecommunications providers
  • Phoenix College is creating a certification program training its technology students for jobs maintaining and installing the PHX DECC, creating the network of the future for the workforce of the future.
  • Alhambra and Cartwright Elementary School districts will be the first two installations with connectivity going live on September 1, 2021.
  • The remaining ten elementary school districts, Phoenix Union High School District, Maricopa Community Colleges and Phoenix College installations will be completed in 12-24 months.

Quotes

“In this highly technological world, tech access should not be a privilege; it should be a right.”
Dr. Chad Gestson, Superintendent, Phoenix Union High School District

“It’s the silver lining from the pandemic cloud. Children will no longer need to sit in library parking lots or coffee shops to access high-speed broadband to do their homework.”
Laura Pastor, Phoenix City Council Member, District 4; member, Governing Board, Phoenix Union High School District; Community Relations Director, Phoenix College

“Overcoming challenges is in Phoenix’s DNA. This is a great example of how, by looking at things differently, we can produce innovative solutions that highlight Phoenix as a top tier city. PHX DECC is a cost-effective, collaborative, digital divide solution we’re proud to champion.”
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego

“ARPA and the CARES Act provide necessary federal funding to invest in a resilient, strong future that will last for generations. Investing those monies into PHX DECC will create a more connected community and deliver the critical results our city needs.”
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego

“From an economic development standpoint, we couldn’t take a chance that we would have any gaps in our future workforce. We’ve worked diligently across all sectors to create a place that makes Phoenix, Arizona, a great destination for high-wage technology-related businesses that we hadn’t seen before. They are really attracted to the workforce that we have.”
Christine Mackay, Director, Phoenix Community and Economic Development 

“For more than 100 years, Phoenix College has proudly served the communities in and around the City of Phoenix. This work to bridge the digital divide demonstrates the importance of collaboration to meet the needs of our citizens and our students. We are thankful to PXU, Greater Phoenix Economic Council and the City of Phoenix for their commitment to this project. We appreciate the efforts of all involved to provide equitable learning opportunities by eliminating barriers for some of our most vulnerable and underserved students.”
Clyne G. H. Namuo, Ph.D., Interim President, Phoenix College

“With the coming of the pandemic, this was no longer just something occurring in pockets; the ability to connect was affecting everyone, everywhere.”
Paul Ross, Associate Vice President and CIO, Phoenix College

 

About City of Phoenix

Phoenix is America’s fifth largest city and Arizona’s state capital. For the last five years, more people have chosen the city of Phoenix as their new home than any other U.S. city, according to U.S. Census Bureau annual population estimates. Phoenix offers a stable business environment, exceptional speed-to-market, a high quality of life and affordable living. The city is home to three of the five largest city parks in the world. Phoenix has been cited by major national studies as a top five emerging life sciences market and a top five city for technology job opportunities. With a vibrant foreign trade zone and as the largest city in the Arizona-Sonora megaregion, Phoenix is a leading global logistics center. The city’s noteworthy business ecosystem provides an environment in which businesses are able to rapidly grow to scale.