Kansas City, Kansas Public Library Initiates Super Wi-Fi Pilot

  • KC K20-Librarians
  • Television White space
KANSAS CITY, KS – The KCK Public Library announced that an agreement was signed to examine the potential for the library system to use new unlicensed radio spectrum known as “Super Wi-Fi” to supply wireless broadband connectivity to a branch library and other public spaces in Kansas City, Kansas.

“The project is intended to both provide broadband to a remote environmental learning library as well as to help extend wireless library Internet access beyond the library walls,” said KCK Public Library Director, Carol Levers. “Our primary objective is to upgrade connectivity at our Mr. & Mrs. F.L. Schlagle Environmental Library but we believe the halo effect will result in giving people more places to find convenient access,” she said.

Schlagle is now only connected via a pair of aging T1 lines compared to the high performance connections at other schools and library facilities in KCK. To close or at least substantially lessen this bandwidth gap, a pilot project utilizing newly FCC-approved unlicensed Kansas City, Kansas Public Library Initiates Super Wi-Fi Pilot radio spectrum, so-called Super Wi-Fi also known as Television White space (TVWS), will be tested. TVWS can carry data signals for miles while being capable of passing through walls and other obstructions that normally limit wireless connectivity.

Cross Institutional Collaborations
For backhaul, the project will use the fastest available wireline connection. In addition to addressing the connectivity gap with the Schlagle site, there is also a desire to explore using this unlicensed spectrum capability to increase connectivity options in other local public spaces. “If successful, we hope that by situating TVWS base stations at all five KCK library branches we will be able to wirelessly feed “satellite” library hotspots with traditional no-fee library Internet access at helpful locations around town,” said Director Levers. The project was hatched as part of a new local consortium of KC metro area school, public and academic librarians, called the “KC K20-Librarians”, also initiated by KCKPL to develop cross institutional collaborations.

The TVWS project is similar to what is being advocated by New America Foundation’s AIR.U and the Gig.U project initiative, a partnership among higher education associations to promote connectivity in rural college communities. “KCKPL has an opportunity here to create a model that leverages big bandwidth and newly available TVWS technologies to extend satellite library hotspots for after-hours connectivity and other services to other locations in their communities,” said Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America Foundation and co-founder of AIR.U.

Advising on the project is Don Means of Digital Village in Sausalito, CA, initiator of the national “Fiber to the Library” (FTTL) project and director of the Gigabit Libraries Network, a global collaboration of hi-tech innovation libraries. “Interestingly,” said Means, “the typical available range of TVWS roughly approximates the average distance between public libraries, from a few urban blocks to a few rural miles. Libraries, as natural community technology hubs, should be able to embrace this as a deployment strategy and provide an answer to the question of “What to do with a gig? Share it!”

To reach that point, libraries need far faster Internet connections if the country is to achieve the goal of gigabit connectivity to libraries and other anchor institutions as articulated in the National Broadband Plan.

National Plan principal architect, Blair Levin, former FCC chairman chief of staff and now CEO of Gig.U, a national consortium of 37 research universities and partner in AIR.U, says, “Hopefully this transaction will become another potential solution for extending next generation broadband networks from areas served by Gig.U related deployments and other high performance fiber projects into surrounding areas.”

The KCKPL TVWS Pilot is set for its first phase deployment in early summer with the intention to eventually provide the same Base Station capability at all KCKPL branches, feeding even more library hotspots across the city.

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