American transport dept uses connected buses as wifi hotspots

Transport officials in the American city of Columbus have come up with a way to help disadvantaged people get online at home, by beefing up the wifi on their buses and parking them near homes.

Central Ohio Transit Authority realised it had a way to help schoolchildren without internet connectivity cope with distance learning to get online by adapting the connectivity that already exists. The City had already distributed thousands of Chromebooks to disadvantaged students, but their wifi access was stopping them learning.

“We picked a location where we knew that there was a huge subset of the population that may not have access,” said COTA’s Chief Innovation Officer Sophia Mohr. “We expanded the WiFi access of the vehicle to a 100-foot radius so on the outside people could access it.” The external access reduces risks of people breaking social distancing guidelines within the bus.

The pilot scheme is underway with a view to expand if it is a success which Mohr thinks is likely explaining, “I’m very hopeful based on the feedback that we’ve already received, we’ll be able to expand it.”

Those behind the idea think there may be long-term benefits even when everyone has returned to school, saying that the buses could be used to give weekend internet access when there is less need for them on the road.

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