ALTON, RGV – One of the City of Alton’s major projects is bringing WiFi to its residents.

The City of Alton has entered into a public-private partnership with WiFi4U to establish WiFi throughout the city. WiFi4U is owned by entrepreneur Gilbert De Los Santos.

Jorge Arcaute, the Alton city manager, said the project will be divided into three phases with an estimated time of 36 months to establish WiFi for about 90 percent of the residents inside Alton’s city limits.

“As we’ve closed on this partnership one of the things that Gilbert De Los Santos, the owner of WiFi4U, has said over and over again is that access to information this way or access to those airwaves is now a necessity. It’s not a luxury,” Arcaute said.

“I think for too long we have viewed it as a luxury and that’s kind of kept it out of reach. So when you have a private-public partnership it puts it closer to fruition which is where we’re at now, but again to stress, WiFi is a necessity now not a luxury in today’s world.”

Steve Peña

Steve Peña, CEO of the City of Alton’s Development Corporation, says providing WiFi to the community is one of the major projects the city has been working on for several years. The original intent, he said, was to provide WiFi for the children in school to finish their homework because education is shifting towards technology.

“A lot of the times they don’t have access to this from where they’re at and we wanted to go ahead and push this out so they could be able to utilize WiFi,” Peña said. “We’re about to put in a couple of towers in the first phase [and] we’ve got about four different towers. We also did a pilot program before we even started this program to see if it was useful to the public … [and] they were biting at the chops.”

Not only will WiFi be accessible to the citizens of Alton, but to the commercial sector as well. Peña told the Rio Grande Guardian the private-public partnership is unique and important because the city owns the infrastructure while the public entity is facilitating the operational costs. The public entity will gain funding through the commercial sector.

“If someone in the commercial sector wants to come on board and wants more broadband they are able to purchase these package deals at a very low, discounted cost because the private entity is not paying for the infrastructure and offsetting the cost to the consumer,” Peña said.

Here is the City of Alton’s news release on the project:

Previously the City Alton had entered into an agreement with WiFiRus LLC  in August of 2016 to provide a demonstration project to facilitate a public Wi-Fi system, at no cost to the residents, to a portion of the city as a pilot program. This project consisted of utilizing the current city water tower to mount the required hardware and provide services to a portion of the Old Town Site, a portion of the city commercial sector and Sylvia Vela Park.

Residents within a 550 yard circular radius around the water tower including City Hall and Sylvia Vela Park were within this area. The Wi-Fi demonstration project reported for a four month period (February 2017 to May 2017) that on an average, approximately 3,305 users were connecting to the system per month. This solidified that the need and the demand for this type of service was prevalent in the city of Alton.

The original intent of the project was to give a level of free WiFi to school children within the City’s jurisdiction and especially to those that could not afford the cost of an internet connection to do basic items as completing homework tasks. Currently the City Alton Development Corporation (CADC) has entered into a Public-Private Partnership (P3) with WiFiRus LLC, to provide no cost Public Wi-Fi to the citizens of Alton. The project is called “Alton Smart City WiFi”.

The Alton Smart City WiFi project will be phased in utilizing four phases to cover the limits of the City of Alton. The First phase will consist of six towers, including the current Water Tower, to provide a level of free WiFi to the residents of Alton and the commercial sector within the intersection of Mile 5 and Alton Blvd to include City Hall and Sylvia Vela Park. The Wi-Fi project will provide users with a maximum bandwidth of 2Mbps per user.

Wi-Fi users allowed free access would not be allowed the capacity to access multi-media viewing, such as videos and other extensive broadband user activities however; WiFiRus LLC will be able to serve concurrent users with no restrictions for a monthly fee for the upgrade to include all multi-media downloads. These would be considered a Premium Package.

WiFiRus LLC will provide the CADC with all data analytics collected on the use of the system and the CADC will analyze the data for future projects and expansions.

“Thanks to our elected officials and their vision of the growth of Alton, we are moving to the next level of services for our residents, “Moving Alton Forward by Bridging the Digital Divide”.

One other way the City of Alton is bridging the digital divide is through the Alton Digitech Public Library. Alton had a private partnership with Mission CISD to allow kids to have access to thousands of books that are age appropriate.

“We had a young man, about five or six year’s old here in the library. He saw the poster, got the smart phone, tapped into the website and started reading a book immediately. You hear those kinds of stories and it kind of spurs us to providing this service We really think this is something that’s going to be beneficial to the entire community,” Arcaute said.

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance

In other Alton news, Peña said Doctors Hospital Renaissance is buying Lot 10B from Lone Star National Bank to construct a 5,544 square foot building that will hold an Urgent Care facility.

“This lot is adjacent to the Lone Star National Bank currently being constructed on Lot 10A across from Alton City Hall. Cantu Construction will be doing the work on the Urgent Care as well as completing the Bank building,” Peña said.

“Negotiations for the UC were completed Feb 21st 2018. They want to commence as soon as possible. This will be the first of its kind in the City of Alton and will benefit not only the residents of the city but beyond its borders.”

Peña said DHR will be investing approximately $1.2 million into the urgent care facility, creating 15 to 20 construction jobs, four to five part-time jobs and three to four full time jobs.

“A medical facility will significantly impact the community by providing an array of service opportunities and products. The facility will create a large amount of traffic that is ideal for current and future developments to capture,” Peña said.

“This is a great catch. We give thanks to our partners at Lone Star National Bank and Doctors Hospital Renaissance for making this vision become a reality.”

Growth, growth and more growth. Today we are having a conversation about one of the Rio Grande Valley’s fastest growing cities, Alton, Texas.

Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Tuesday, January 30, 2018