Case Study: Rivers of Steel

FSA Consulting installs a wide-area computer network giving Wi-Fi access to Rivers of Steel staff and guests at ROS facilities.

Created by Congress in 1996, the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area is committed to preserving, interpreting, and managing the historic, cultural, and natural resources related to Big Steel and its related industries. Encompassing over 5,000 square miles in the eight counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland, Rivers of Steel is building on this area’s remarkable transition from heavy industry to high technology and diversified services as well as bolstering the new regional economy by promoting tourism and economic development based on this region’s historic industrial saga.

The Problem

The Rivers of Steel organization, headquartered in the Bost Building in Homestead, wanted access to their network while on-site at the Carrie Furnace (Rankin) and the Pump House (The Waterfront). Basic Internet service would provide an answer to their administrative network needs, reliable access to the Internet for events on-site, and a backbone for increased security monitoring. Because many of their remote sites are “off the grid,” setting up a traditional Internet connection would have been costly and inconvenient for the non-profit organization.

The Solution for Rivers of Steel

FSA Consulting installed private Point to Multi-Point (P2MP) wireless network infrastructure that links each of the facilities to the Bost Building’s administrative computer network. All three sites now share connectivity through the Bost Building’s administrative network, allowing for the use of printers, servers, and file sharing between the three sites and remote security monitoring.

Without adding additional Internet connectivity, Rivers of Steel needed to provide network access to the remote sites so that staff can access network servers and email, process payments for tours, and manage security from any of the three connected buildings.

The Point to Multi-Point wireless network infrastructure would have to carry the encrypted network connection across the Monongahela River, avoiding interferences from the buildings and bridges that stand between the two, without losing signal quality or reliability. FSA Consulting installed the P2MP on the rooftop of the Bost building to beam the signal to the Carrie Furnaces and then back across the river to the Pump House, using equipment that requires very little electricity, as the sites are limited to solar power.

According to Jeffrey T. Leber, Vice President and COO of Rivers of Steel, the service has functioned exactly as intended. It is reliable throughout the Carrie Furnaces space, a tricky feat given the many “nooks and crannies” where the signal could become weak. The staff use network services regularly for back-office type needs and accessing administrative information remotely. The service has also streamlined the processes for tour staff, as they used to depend on potentially unreliable “hot spots” purchased from their ISP for admission and gift shop purchases at the sites.

Most importantly, it has been useful from a security standpoint. The sites are appealing to intrepid explorers, modern day ruins in an urban setting. But, because the Carrie Furnaces have been left to the elements for so long, the site can be dangerous. Rivers of Steel wants to keep people from exploring the site until renovations can make it accessible for tours. There are security cameras at both sites and the footage is streamed back to the organization so that they can check in any time. Leber says, “It’s peace of mind that at any point in time we can look in and see what’s going on, whether it’s Sunday morning at 7 am or Wednesday evening at midnight.”

The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, encompassing seven counties in western Pennsylvania, embraces our region’s heritage through the preservation of key historic places from Pittsburgh’s industrial past. If you’d like to know more about the organization, plan a tour, or make a donation, visit