Fellowship Openings

Designing a Citywide Wi-Fi Strategy to Close the Digital Divide (CLOSED)

Project: Designing a Citywide Wi-Fi Strategy to Close the Digital Divide

Agency: City of San Jose Civic Innovation

Location: San Jose, CA

Project Context

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 and 5G small cells due 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 narrow band wireless technology.

By exploring various wireless technology options and funding models, the San Jose Civic Innovation project aims to expand this vision to improve the way people connect by closing the digital divide completely. To support this work, San Jose Civic Innovation will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year who will analyze data from the portfolio of pilot programs and work with strategic partners and stakeholders to develop a compelling business case for innovative, sustainable, and cost-effective wireless solutions that not only support closing the digital divide but also support economic development and provide future support for smart cities and IoT.  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.

Project Summary & Potential Deliverables

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 September 2018, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will work with strategic technology partners, 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, 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 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 to create an evaluation rubric, which could include limited free Wi-Fi coupled with multiple pricing tiers and service models. For each recommendation, the fellow will provide a proposed funding plan that might include elements such as taxpayer support, private funding, and grants. Collaboration is key for the success of the project, and the fellow will work to cultivate partnerships with large-scale tech companies to procure funding, telecom providers to secure equipment, and internet service providers to acquire customer service support.

  • 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 for a citywide Wi-Fi initiative in the City of San José. Evaluate wireless technology options associated with “street lights at a platform.”
  • 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.
  • Deliver final recommendations to San Jose City Council: Present final approved business case to the city council for bringing high quality, cost effective, and sustainable Wi-Fi to the City of San Jose while also supporting economic development, smart city services, and IoT.
  • Procure technology services: Upon approval of a final strategy, procure technology services, equipment, and a project contractor to begin implementation of the approved plan.

Key Stakeholders

  • Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager, City of San José
  • Dolan Beckel, Smart City Lead, City of San José


  • At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, particularly with a strong background in technology procurement, telecommunications, data analytics, project management, cultivating strategic partnerships, relationship building, collaboration, innovation, and leading presentations.
  • High level knowledge of wireless communications technology options preferred but not required.
  • 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.
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
  • 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.
  • Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous environments.
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.

To Apply

Click the link below to upload a resume and complete the online application questions in lieu of a cover letter. The application process will allow you to indicate interest in more than one fellowship opportunity. You only need to submit one application. Interested candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as selections will be made on a rolling basis and specific opportunities may close quickly.

A FUSE Fellowship is a 12-month engagement requiring fellows be primarily committed to their partnership with the government agency throughout the year to ensure the success of their project. Fellows are retained as independent contractors of FUSE Corps and are paid an annual stipend of $90,000 through monthly installments. This commitment begins on September 24, 2018 and ends September 20th, 2019.

The FUSE Fellowship is an equal opportunity program with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives. We strongly encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply.