Bellevue’s goal of a connected city is closer to becoming a reality as the city progresses on providing public Wi-Fi and small cell antennas on city poles.
At the city council study session on June 24, staff gave an update on the work done to progress the connectivity element of the Bellevue Smart Plan adopted in 2017.
Chelo Picardal, Bellevue’s chief technology officer, explained some of the steps taken to improve Wi-Fi connectivity over the past year throughout the city. Picardal detailed the process to bring Wi-Fi to the Highland Village development on Northeast 8th Street.
Preserved as affordable housing, King County reached out to the city to provide Wi-Fi as they began remodeling the property. Picardal said the city was able to leverage the transportation department’s fiber network infrastructure as the backbone for the project to serve Wi-Fi to the property, similar to work for another apartment complex last year.
“We are thankful for the expanded connectivity capital program council approved to allow us to act on opportunities like this,” Picardal said. “We added Wi-Fi to each of the buildings, and will be adding Wi-Fi to a couple more buildings still under construction.”
Through the connectivity program Bellevue has also addressed digital equity gaps by providing access to Internet where possible for low-income students in the school district.
“Especially since the Bellevue School District provides laptops for their students during the school year,” she said.
The city is expanding Wi-Fi connectivity to parks. Connections are available in the community centers, downtown, crossroads, and parks such as Bellevue Botanical Garden, Kelsey Creek Farm, Highland Park and Lewis Creek Park. The city also recently added Wi-Fi to the Surrey Downs Park and the South Bellevue Community Center.
Small cell technology is also getting closer to becoming a reality in the city as service providers have signed master license agreements with the city. AT&T, Verizon and Crown Castle (T-mobile, Sprint) have signed agreements with the city to begin putting small cell antennas on streetlights.
The antennas are fitted onto utility or streetlight poles and strengthen the cell phone service in the area. None have been installed in the city yet, but service providers are working with the streetlight pole manufacturer to create a new design for the small cell poles.
Picardal expects the city will receive permit applications from the service providers soon. The technology, she said, will strengthen 4G coverage areas and will be in place for the adoption of 5G standards in the future.