Fellowship Openings

Defining and Executing a Strategy for Sustainable Community Wi-Fi Across San Jose

Project: Defining and Executing a Strategy for Sustainable Community Wi-Fi Across San Jose

Agency: San José City Manager’s Office

Location: San Jose, CA


While access to high-speed Wi-Fi is something most people take for granted, 40,000 households and 95,000 people lack access to a reliable internet connection in the City of San José. This digital divide presents significant hurdles for underserved communities, preventing them from harnessing the power of the internet to further their education, develop career skills, apply for jobs, and access healthcare options. The San José Civic Innovation project aims to secure San José’s position as the most innovative city in America by 2020 by offering low cost or free Wi-Fi options to residents and business owners in strategic locations across the city. San José’s commitment to closing the digital divide will also allow the city up to successfully capitalize on the Internet of Things and become a leader in the Smart Cities movement.

The City is currently piloting three Wi-Fi point solutions with the goal of gathering data on the success of each model to ultimately inform a citywide Wi-Fi strategy. San José currently offers free Wi-Fi, called Wickedly Fast Wi-Fi, in select downtown areas and at the airport, however, the aging telecom infrastructure means that the service isn’t always reliable. Using the same technology, the City has also partnered with three low-resource high schools to deploy outdoor Wi-Fi to street poles throughout the high school communities so that the students can use the Wi-Fi at school, while walking home and potentially at home if the signal is within reach. Additionally, the City has partnered with Sprint who has provided free hotspot technology to schools to support in-building access to free Wi-Fi. Finally, the city is piloting a partnership with Facebook using their Terragraph technology to expand outdoor Wi-Fi access in the high traffic downtown corridor, including the Convention Center and other key civic spaces.

At a more strategic level, the City’s Digital Inclusion and Broadband Strategy (the Strategy) has stack-ranked the expected outcomes from execution of the Strategy.  Those stack-ranked priorities are: #1 – Economic Development (more choice, better quality, competitive pricing), #2- Digital Inclusion, and #3 – Future support for smart city services and the Internet of Things (IoT).  The intersection of these expected outcomes is the City’s network of 64,000 street light poles. Light poles are the most strategic asset the City will leverage in execution of the Strategy. The street light pole is the ideal vertical infrastructure to install 4G, 5G, and Wi-Fi small cells due to the poles distribution throughout the city, height, and power.  Small cells are the next wave of telecommunications network technology to address economic development. At the same time, the street light can be viewed as a platform to support digital inclusion with broadband technology such as Wi-Fi as well as an IoT connectivity platform including medium band and narrowband wireless technology.

The ultimate objective of this fellowship is to develop and issue an RFP for an exchange of value between the City, the City’s partners, and a licensed service provider/network operator to sustain and expand the community wireless network.  It is envisioned that an exchange of value would initially involve the City’s existing wireless assets, interested school district’s capital investment in Wi-Fi for students and teachers at home and the surrounding community, and the City providing free access to light poles and other vertical infrastructure.  The City would also allow a licensed service provider/network operator to provide their own revenue-generating services over this network and allow advertising over this network. In turn the service provider/network operator would maintain, operate, and upgrade the network at no ongoing cost to the City or its partners.  A licensed network operator needs to be selected by early summer of 2019.

The San Jose Civic Innovation project is an exciting opportunity to initiate a sea change that will close the digital divide and chart a new course for how telecom and smart city services are delivered in urban environments.


The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in April 2019, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will work with strategic technology partners, school districts as well as internal stakeholders, to develop a smart citywide wireless strategy with an emphasis on Wi-Fi and assist in procuring resources necessary to move forward with an approved strategic plan. The fellow will cultivate relationships with leaders in city government, school districts, other strategic partners, and community business leaders to get a clear picture of the challenges and opportunities related to the implementation of a citywide wireless strategy. With an eye toward innovation and inclusion, the fellow will explore a myriad of creative technology and funding models for delivering cost-effective, reliable, and sustainable options before developing a solid business case to present to the San Jose City Council.

Equal parts action-oriented executor, seasoned diplomatic relationship builder, project manager, and strategic analyst, the fellow is responsible for generating stakeholder buy in, city council approval, and procuring a contractor to begin the process of implementing the approved strategy. The FUSE Fellow will thoroughly explore current pilot programs, different technology options, and varying business models. Collaboration is key for the success of the project.

  • Conduct an analysis of current pilot programs: Identify and collect data from existing pilot programs to gain an understanding of what a cost-effective, reliable, and sustainable initiative is. Evaluate other wireless technology options associated with “street lights at a platform.”
  • Flesh out a working hypothesis:  Validate previous work and current thinking that the City’s existing Wi-Fi footprint creates a powerful enough value proposition to incent successful responses to an RFP from a service provider/network operator to take over operations, maintenance, and upgrades to an ever-growing community Wi-Fi network and footprint.
  • Create an evaluation rubric: Explore myriad business models, funding opportunities, and technology options to design a rubric to evaluate the best way for the San José Civic Innovation project to meet its goals.
  • Cultivate relationships with stakeholders and strategic partners: Collaborate thoughtfully with internal and external stakeholders, develop positive relationships with strategic partners to explore creative funding options, and generate excitement within the city government to pursue the final recommendation.
  • Develop the RFP, manage the RFP process, and identify a lead partner for this project.
  • Deliver final recommendations to San Jose City Council to engage the selected partner.
  • Manage execution: Begin execution of council recommendations with the goal of having the existing network footprint transitioned to a service provider/network operator in the fall of 2019.


  • Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager, City of San José
  • Dolan Beckel, Director, Office of Civic Innovation, City of San José
  • Rob Lloyd, Chief Information Officer, City of San José


  • At least 15 years of professional experience in quickly understanding and defining value propositions to solve a business problem and defining the steps to taking the value proposition to an implementation.
  • This requires strong experience across strategic thinking, cultivating strategic partnerships, relationship building, collaboration in addition to task/detail orientation, business case development and creating procurements for partnerships.
  • Experience in wireless technology solutions such as Wi-Fi, cellular, and other forms of connectivity.
  • Desire to understand the public sector first and then maximize performance by suggesting and applying private sector approaches to the Fellowship.
  • Experience in adopting and following the SCRUM approach to work independent of the content and problem being solved.
  • Ability to understand, adapt, and thrive within an established teamwork culture.
  • Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous environments.
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
  • Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
  • Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
  • Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.