Washington, D.C.’s Community Internet Program will give internet service providers free access to city-owned rooftops if they commit to offering low-cost options for broadband.
A new open-access infrastructure initiative giving internet service providers free access to city-owned rooftops aims to lower broadband costs for Washington, D.C., residents.
On May 16, District Mayor Muriel Bowser announced broadband provider WeLink as the first ISP to join the city’s Community Internet Program. CIP members have free access to install service antennas on District-owned building rooftops if they commit to providing a reduced- or zero-cost option for high-speed connections to households eligible for the new Affordable Connectivity Program, announced last week by the White House.
For the District, WeLink's wireless technology will be faster to deploy and more cost-effective than traditional in-ground fiber, and “public infrastructure access will only accelerate [the] ability to deploy” in densely populated urban communities and “to those most in need," company founder and CEO Kevin Ross said.
CIP providers must deliver 200 Mbps or higher both upstream and downstream, according to the mayor’s announcement. WeLink’s antennas will also provide internet access to residential properties at no cost to the city, serving as neighborhood hubs.
The company will start its wireless network rollout in the next month, first installing its neighborhood hubs in the Trinidad community and then expanding to Wards 5, 7 and 8.
As part of Infrastructure Week, the mayor also announced the creation of a State Broadband and Digital Equity Office within the Office of the Chief Technology Officer. The office’s first goal will be to ensure ISPs participating in the CIP follow through on their commitment to equitably close the digital divide, officials said.
“Whenever we can use District-owned buildings to better support the community, that is a win for everyone,” Bowser said. “We’re happy that President Biden is making this issue a priority, and we plan to make DC a national example of what is possible.”
DC residents can learn more about the program at internet.dc.gov, where individuals can also check their internet speed and sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program. ISPs can also visit the site to express interest in the Community Internet Program.