As late November arrives, so does the the holiday season for many of our readers. People reading up on local efforts to improve Internet access will be counting their blessings today, which inspires us to do the same. There are many things we have to be thankful this year.
As access to affordable broadband becomes increasingly critical in today's world, however, and as rates from the large Internet access companies continue to rise, getting online is more challenging than ever for folks with limited incomes. We want to express our appreciation for local communities who adopt policies to make high-quality Internet access available to lower income households through their municipal networks.
A Growing Awareness
Wilson, North Carolina, decided that as part of the community network's mission, they would offer fast, reliable fiber Internet access available to those living in public housing residences. Since then, we've seen other communities take creative approaches to ensure that everyone can use the network, not only those who are already better off. Municipalities that see the value of publicly owned fiber optic infrastructure understand the value of eliminating cherry picking as a way to tap into their undiscovered human capital.
Unlike large corporate Internet access providers, publicly owned networks don't need to maximize profit from every subscriber in order to please shareholders. They consider themselves in place for the public good. Munis can dedicate themselves toward digital inclusion efforts, which are in line with their mission.
During Digital Inclusion Week in October, we detailed some of the innovative approaches that local decision makers are adopting to ensure the least fortunate in their communities have access to the community's new fiber tools. Here are just a few:
In Hillsboro, Oregon, one of the first neighborhoods to receive gigabit connectivity through HiLight will be one of the areas of town where many folks don't have access to, or can't afford broadband Internet access. People there who qualify for SNAP, free and reduced lunches, or other income-based assistance will be able to purchase a gig for $10 per month. Hillsboro has chosen to take a long-term incremental deployment strategy so they can continue to build the network in this manner and to avoid borrowing or bonding.
Check out the HiLight promo video:
Fort Collins, Colorado, has decided to use eligibility for other utility assistance, such as LEAP, to establish eligibility for $20 per month gigabit Internet access for their new Connexion municipal network. Fort Collins plans to use payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to help find the program.
Here's their promo video:
Wilson is helping people restore their credit, in addition to offering affordable, reliable, fast Internet access. They also provide a prepay billing option, which allows those who may not be able to obtain access from larger companies, repair their damaged credit histories.
Listen to Will Aycock from the Greenlight Community Broadband Network discuss the program with Christopher on episode 291 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast
A growing list of municipal networks are extending low-cost Internet access to households in the community based on whether or not their children qualify for free or reduced priced lunches. In Chattanooga, Longmont, Colorado; and Cedar Falls, Iowa; community leaders are working to discover ways to expand connectivity in effective and fiscally responsible ways.
As high-quality Internet access continues to become an integral tool in daily life, we're thankful that leaders from these communities are thinking ahead and considering those who might face challenges obtaining that tool.
Image credit Jillwellington