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Grant-funded tower will provide internet to Gilbert Middle School, R.L. Brown Academy students

Duval County Public Schools received $180,000 to fund data tower pilot program called ‘Project OVERCOME21′

Through a $180,000 grant from the Internet Society, Duval County Public Schools is poised to erect a 100-foot tower near Matthew Gilbert Middle School which will boost broadband access in a three-mile radius and provide access to the Eastside school’s existing network.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Through a $180,000 grant from the Internet Society, Duval County Public Schools is poised to erect a 100-foot tower near Matthew Gilbert Middle School which will boost broadband access in a three-mile radius and provide access to the Eastside school’s existing network.

The endeavor is called “Project OVERCOME21,” and will also provide expanded network access to students of Richard L. Brown Gifted and Talented Academy.

“Expanding broadband access to underserved communities lacking reliable and affordable access is urgent, as work, school, healthcare and other aspects of life continue to shift online,” a press release from the Internet Society said.

The tower is scheduled to be built over the next several months, with the expended network expected to go live in January 2022.

Map of the zone of Project OVERCOME21. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

“What we found is that in certain segments of our population, students don’t have reliable internet access at home,” DCPS Chief Information Officer Jim Culbert said. “This became very apparent during the pandemic, where we were providing hotspots and laptops for those students that were in the most need.”

Culbert said the project will serve as a test case, which could potentially expand to more schools in the future.

“This is really part of a broad range project to say, every student really needs to have internet access at home,” Culbert said. “The purpose of this grant is to prove or disprove whether there’s something like this technology that could be erected at a relatively low cost and supply free internet access to the community.”

The internet signal will only be available to students as they do school work, providing them the same access they would have in the classroom.

The expanded network will also contain the same protections, firewalls, and all the same content folders as the school’s current network.


About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.