Mesa is taking the first steps to bring digital access to all its residents and businesses. The City launched a Request for Information (RFI) to learn more about companies that can install and operate an open-access fiber network across Mesa. The ambitious digital plan would connect 264,000 city premises and 2,470 street miles, providing citywide access to the fastest internet speeds. The project would take years to complete, but the City believes it is necessary to reduce the digital divide and propel Mesa into the future.
“In an increasingly virtual world, access to high-speed internet is a key to success for individuals, families and businesses,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles. “I’m thrilled we’re taking this step toward bridging the digital divide, ultimately creating greater access to education, career and social connection for all who call Mesa home.”
Mesa has widespread internet connectivity, and 75 percent of its residents have access to some form of landline broadband. According to a 2021 City of Mesa household survey, 17 percent of participants didn’t have internet, with affordability being the barrier preventing them from accessing the web. The City already plans to deploy Wi-Fi and Mobile Broadband infrastructure to the 10 square miles of qualified census tract in west Mesa that showed the greatest need for connectivity at the height of the pandemic, per Mesa Public Schools surveys. Mesa has also started upgrading to Wi-Fi 6, the current network in downtown, City parks, pools and libraries, and is testing a Citizen Broadband Radio System (CBRS) tower at Country Club and Broadway.
“Internet is essential for work and school, and the pandemic made it clear that those who lack connection are at a disadvantage,” said District 5 Councilmember and National League of Cities Information Technology and Communications Committee member David Luna. “Bringing fiber optics to all of Mesa will remove barriers and bring opportunities for all our residents.”
The City is looking to identify potential partners to bring open fiber access to Mesa through the RFI. Ideal bidders would be able to offer free or affordable high-speed internet service to qualifying households across the network to bridge the digital divide. They will also look at companies interested in growing and investing in Mesa as new neighborhoods emerge across the City.
“We use data and technology to understand the needs of our citizens and better serve them. For Mesa to be a Smart City, we need all our residents to be engaged and connected,” said Mesa’s Chief Information Officer, Travis Cutright. “We are looking for partners that can help us deliver on that promise.”
The due date for the RFI is Tuesday, March 15 at 3 p.m. local Arizona Time. Mesa will host a pre-response conference on Feb. 9. Please visit https://vendor.mesaaz.gov/ and reference proposal #2022117 for details.