Local communities continue to search for ways to tackle the digital divide and in San Francisco, the city is making strides by working with a local Internet access company. The City by the Bay and ISP Monkeybrains have adopted a new model to bring high-quality connectivity to residents in public housing. The approach not only creates new opportunities for people who were once denied economic and educational opportunities, but does so in a way that is financially self-sustaining. With modest maintenance and start-up costs, Monkeybrains and San Francisco has found a way to bring the same high-speed Internet access to low-income households at an affordable rate. Read our new report, A Public Housing Digital Inclusion Blueprint: Monkeybrains and San Francisco Deliver a Sustainable Gig, to learn how the partners found a way to shrink the digital divide in public housing facilities.
A few national ISPs offer programs for households considered low-income, but those services only offer slow and typically unreliable connections. The program that Monkeybrains and San Francisco has created provides high-speed Internet access to public housing units at no cost to the end user. In some cases, the ISP does receive a monthly payment of $10 per unit from building management. No matter what, each user receives the same level of customer service and support as those who pay standard monthly rates. From the beginning, the goal was to bring the same level of service to subscribers in public housing as Monkeybrains subscribers throughout the city.
We spoke with Preston Rhea and Mason Carroll from Monkeybrains back in 2017, when we first learned about the plan, which was still being developed. You can listen to episode 264 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast to understand the early challenges Monkeybrains faced.
You can also listen to Christopher’s conversation with co-author Hannah Rank about the report. The two sat down when they began to work on the case study to discuss the project for episode 319 of the podcast.
Lessons for More Communities
Every community, regardless of population, must contend with digital inequity. As local communities continue to recognize all residents’ need for high-quality Internet access, models such as the approach developed by Monkeybrains and San Francisco spark further innovation.
“These households need Internet access to search for jobs, improve their education, access government services, and for many other reasons common to modern living. Monkeybrains' work in San Francisco shows how smart one time investments in public housing can guarantee high-quality access to all in public housing.”