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Fort Worth CTO Talks Broadband Project

Kevin Gunn recently sat down and talked about the city’s broadband partnership and planning, a key to continued growth and success for both the city and residents.

Aerial view of downtown Fort Worth, Texas.
Kevin Gunn Forth Worth CTO.
Fort Worth CTO Kevin Gunn, who’s headed up the Information Technology Solutions Department (ITS) since 2014, recently spoke to Industry Insider — Texas about the city’s partnership with Sprocket Networks and how broadband is the underpinning for the city’s continued growth and development.

Sprocket will build a 300-mile fiber network over the next three years, breaking ground in early 2024, Gunn said. The network will fill city, business and residential needs and help close the connectivity gap in underserved areas.

This is a public-private partnership resulting from a February 2022 request for proposals, and the contract was awarded Oct. 31 of this year.

The construction estimate is about $65 million, Gunn said, with $4.5 million from American Rescue Plan funds and $3 million from the North Central Texas Council of Governments. The $7.5 million is an up-front cost that will not affect tax rates, and eventually, the city’s yearly cost will be level.

“As we transition from our current service providers … to recurring payments for the fiber-optic network going forward, we have an initial 30-year term, so we’re paying out the remainder of that cost over 30 years,” Gunn said.

Fort Worth has more than 950,000 residents and added about 20,000 residents last year and continues to grow. It is the fifth-largest populated city in Texas and covers 339.8 square miles.

There are multiple aspects to broadband planning that include city tech needs, economic development and digital equity, Gunn said.


“We’ve got 224 some odd facilities where we have equipment ... and we need reliable high-speed communications between those facilities,” Gunn said. “We’d like to leverage technology to the greatest extent and our operations, deploying what I call sensors out to the community.”

These include cameras, weather monitors, pump and lift station monitoring, connecting traffic signals, real-time mobility monitoring and other items that fall into smart city infrastructure.

Fort Worth joined the North Texas Innovation Alliance (NTXIA) roster earlier this month. The city will be able to leverage the alliance’s resources to continue adding “forward-thinking approaches” and intelligent systems, which require connectivity. NTXIA is on a mission to create the most connected, smart and resilient region in the country with a consortium of more than 40 entities, small and large.


“We’re trying to attract Internet-focused business investment in our community. If you look at a map of data centers here in North Texas, you’ll see them around the North Dallas, Richardson, Plano and Frisco area,” Gunn said.

He further explained that data centers are dependent on tier-one Internet service levels, and those cities have that infrastructure.

“So here in Fort Worth, where I sit, the closest access to that tier-one service is in Dallas — 40 miles away at North Stemmons Freeway,” he said.

The Sprocket project will close this gap.


The city dove into exploring its digital divide during the COVID-19 pandemic, and like most large municipalities found pockets of people without Internet access and others with minimum access.

The federal government defines unserved areas as those without any or less than 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload speeds. Underserved areas are defined as access to broadband at 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload but less than 100 Mbps/20 Mbps, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The Sprocket project will bring high-speed fiber Internet to Fort Worth and allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to take high-speed Internet into homes that need it.

“There are disadvantaged portions of our community that don’t have that access. And that’s something that we’re trying to address,” Gunn said. “We recognize there’s a lot of benefits that flow from having Internet access … like job opportunities, educational opportunities, having access to health care. Telemedicine is a surging component of health-care delivery. If you don’t have that access, and if you don’t have the gold standard that I’m referring to, you can’t do all those. If mom is working remotely, and the kids are attending school remotely, and grandparents are attending their doctor’s visits remotely … if you don’t have 100-megabit bandwidth or greater, that’s not possible, right? All those things are competing for the bandwidth.”
Rae D. DeShong is a Dallas-based staff writer and has written for The Dallas Morning News and worked as a community college administrator.