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‘The Monitor’ features Mission’s “Wi-Fi” plan in its article: “Mission to set up Wi-Fi hotspots for students.”

Aug. 10, 2014
by Kristen Mosbrucker|MonitorStaff Writer

MISSION — As the options to navigate the digital world become more ubiquitous, many low-income residents across the Rio Grande Valley still lack Internet access at home.

In fact, the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan statistical area ranked last in the percentage of homes with broadband Internet in 2012, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.

To tackle the issue in Mission, Mayor “Beto” Salinas has announced the city will begin to move forward on a public Wi-Fi project called Mission Municipal Wireless Network.

City leaders hope the project will help students who have tablets and other computing devices but no Internet access at home.

“We want to make sure students are capable of doing their homework without leaving their house,” said City Manager Martin Garza.

McAllen, Pharr and Rio Grande City all have public Wi-Fi programs in place, while Edinburg is working on one.

Meanwhile, Mission plans to survey residents in the coming months to determine which neighborhoods have the least Internet penetration.

“It’s no use for the student to have an iPad if they don’t have the means” to go online, Garza said, referring to Sharyland ISD’s move to hand out iPads to certain students to complete assignments.

Mission ISD also gave Chromebooks to freshmen at Mission High School and to sixth graders at one of its junior high schools.

City officials want to partner with both school districts for the project, but no details have been finalized.

The Mission Economic Development Corp. is currently helping Mission ISD improve its computer science curriculum, chief executive Alex Meade said.

This isn’t the first time free public Wi-Fi has been sought in Mission – and it wasn’t through the government.

In 2011, longtime Mission resident Shaine Mata started his own public Wi-Fi project out of his own pocket, looking to target the commercial sector.

Since then, Drew Lentz, who worked on McAllen’s public Wi-Fi project back in 2007, hired Mata at his company, Frontera Consulting LLC, a McAllen-based technology firm.

“When you deploy a network of this type you have to take into account how many people are going to be using it, what they are going to be using it for and how much capacity they need to successfully do what they want to do,” Lentz said.

That can prove to be a challenge for a network like in Mission, where users may attempt to hog bandwidth by streaming videos or playing online games with boosters from sites like P4rgaming.

“If you are building a network for students to do their homework on an iPad the school provides to them, what happens when I want to watch the World Cup?” Lentz said. “I would saturate the access point, and drain all of the available capacity of the network.”

This could all be avoided if the city chooses to allow only school-assigned devices onto the network, he said.

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