Tag: "low-income"

Posted May 6, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Two recent victories in digital equity work out of California give cause for celebration this week. AB 2748 Telecommunications: Digital Equity in Video Franchising Act and AB 2751 Affordable Internet and Net Equality Act both passed the Communications and Conveyance Committees this week; the former by a margin of 10-3 and the latter 7-3.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Chris Holden, AB 2748 would have a range of impacts if passed, including  giving the state CPUC and local governments more power in negoitating with providers to ensure that there is no discimination based on neighborhood household income that leads to inequitable access to service. It also revises franchise fee agreements at the local level. Read the full bill analysis for more.

From the press release:

"Although DIVCA originally intended to address inequitable broadband access, it remains pronounced across California cities," says Shayna Englin, Director of the California Community Foundation Digital Equity Initiative. "AB 2748 modernizes DIVCA by establishing equal access requirements as policy, and makes them enforceable through a reasonable application process for franchise renewals. We are pleased to co-sponsor Assemblymember Holden's bill, as the legislation will bring us one step closer to ensuring every Californian has access to fast, reliable, and affordable Internet [access]."

AB 2751 would create a Net Equality Program which would require that most state agencies only do business with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that have a low-income plan offering of $40/month for 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps). Read the full bill analysis for more.

Public testimony for AB 2751 highlighted the significant disparity in service speeds and prices that disadvantage low-income Californians by the state's two monopoly providers: Charter Spectrum and AT&T:

AB2751 is a modest but vital step toward leveraging the state’s massive...

Read more
Posted March 8, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

This week, we bring you a special field report from Maryland-based radio and podcast producer Matt Purdy. Through interviews with citizens, digital equity advocates, and the city's new Director of Broadband and Digital Equity, Purdy documents the connectivity struggles that have persisted in Baltimore's historically marginalized neighborhoods for decades.

Those challenges have only become more pronounced with the pandemic, prompting local officials to begin making moves in the direction of something we've not yet seen in a community the size of Baltimore: building a city-owned, open access fiber network.

This is a great story, so we won't give anything else a way. Listen below, or here.

Posted January 24, 2022 by Karl Bode

Hoping to leverage both a major new California broadband expansion initiative and American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, Chico, California is moving forward with its plan to deliver affordable fiber broadband to historically-underserved city residents. 

The Chico city council last year began exploring using $4.8 million of the city’s $22 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to build a citywide fiber network. After spending $250,000 to research its options, the city council voted last week to move forward with the plan.

Dual Purposes

City leaders hope the network will provide more reliable connectivity for the first responders battling historic wildfires in the region. But like many communities, Chico was also spurred to action by telecom market failure, a lack of competition among regional monopolies, and the slow speeds, spotty coverage, and high prices that routinely result. 

“All of us have had experience with the existing incumbents and what we pay for versus what we get,” said Chico's Information Systems Manager Josh Marquis. “There's a lot of areas of our region that do not have access either through affordability gaps or through service gaps.”

Much like Fort Pierce, Florida, Chico will begin by running a pilot project first targeting lower income parts of the city like the Chapman Mulberry neighborhood. There, residents will be provided inexpensive access to symmetrical fiber either through the city or a partner, made cheaper still once the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) discounts are applied. 

Marquis says the city hopes to make the Chico EBB application process much smoother than incumbent offerings, which have been widely criticized for being intentionally cumbersome - and attempting to upsell struggling Americans to more expensive...

Read more
Posted January 5, 2022 by Karl Bode

Since 1972, the Fort Pierce Utilities Authority (FPUA) has provided gas, electric, water, and natural gas services to Fort Pierce, Florida and surrounding areas. Now, inspired by efforts in cities like Chattanooga, the utility hopes to leverage that expertise to deliver affordable fiber Internet access to the city’s 45,000 residents as part of a significant expansion of its internal fiber network. 

Building on Its I-Net

Since the early 2000s, FPUA has deployed 110 miles of optical fiber via its FPUAnet Communications division. Initially, the project focused on bringing ultra-fast fiber broadband to large businesses, schools, hospitals, and other community anchor institutions. 

In 2018, the city decided to expand its footprint to boost the local economy and cement Fort Pierce’s future reputation as a smart city of the future. First by upgrading the company’s existing utility systems (connected to 30,000 existing customer energy meters), then by utilizing that access to drive expanded fiber connectivity to smaller business and residential customers alike. 

“We wanted to look at what we can do, and what are the needs in the community,” Jason Mittler, FPUAnet manager told me. “We have other local competition…Comcast, AT&T are competitors in the area. But in the realm of symmetrical speeds, no one really offers it.”

Fort Pierce certainly isn’t alone in that regard. Even the notoriously inflated FCC data indicates that most U.S. communities rarely have access to symmetrical speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and faster, and competition at those speeds is largely nonexistent. Addressing this market failure created an obvious business expansion opportunity for FPUANet that would not only bring additional value to its existing utility customers in the form of improved reliability and cost savings, but improve regional connectivity while keeping those dollars local

“Upload speeds here in Fort Pierce are not good,” Mittler noted, pointing to the top-heavy speed tiers of both cable broadband and DSL offerings. In contrast, FPUAnet will utilize GPON fiber...

Read more
Posted April 22, 2021 by Maren Machles

Schools offer not only education, but nourishment, a place to form friendships and bonds, and a way to make sure youth are safe. When the pandemic hit, schools had to transition to distance learning and, as a result, many students disappeared because their family didn’t have access to or couldn’t afford a home Internet connection. It became immediately clear, all over the country, that a lack of broadband access and broadband affordability were no longer issues that could be ignored. 

Many cities throughout the U.S. have been working over the last year to address this issue, but one city in particular - Columbus, Ohio - has been taking a holistic approach to broadband access. 

The Franklin County Digital Equity Coalition was borne out of the emergency needs presented by the pandemic, but has shaped up to be a good model for how to address the broadband issues facing urban communities across the country. 

After 11 months of meeting and planning, the coalition released a framework in March outlining its five pillars of focus: broadband affordability, device access, digital life skills and technical support, community response and collaboration, and advocacy for broadband funding and policy. 

The coalition also developed two pilot programs to increase broadband access. 

The first, which was a quickly deployed and desperately needed response to the lack of broadband access, was the Central Ohio Broadband Access Pilot Program. Launched in September 2020 in anticipation of the upcoming school year, it offered hotspot devices with unlimited data plans to central Ohio households with k-12 students. The program, while still growing, has been deployed with about 2,300 hotspots distributed so far with the help of PCs for People. 

The second (the City of Columbus and Smart Columbus Pilot Projects) uses the city’s existing fiber backbone to bring affordable Internet service to the Near East and South Side neighborhoods in Columbus.

Both pilot programs are the result of nearly 30 organizations coming together to get affordable access to some of the city and county’s most vulnerable populations.

There’s Power in Numbers

...

Read more
Posted April 22, 2021 by Jericho Casper

The pandemic exacerbated extreme economic, racial, and social disparities that have long characterized New York City neighborhoods. When the pandemic hit, the "City That Never Sleeps" experienced the worst single-year job decline since the 1930s, with communities of color bearing the brunt of the disease itself in addition to the rising levels of unemployment, lack of affordable housing, and food insecurity it brought on. 

Aiming to alleviate these deeply-entrenched challenges, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio formed the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity last April to survey community organizations in NYC districts most severely impacted by COVID-19. As that work got underway, taskforce co-chair Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson kept hearing a resounding call for access to the Internet. Three months into the pandemic, de Blasio reported that 18 percent of all New Yorkers, more than 1.5 million city residents, had neither a home or a mobile connection, mainly due to issues of affordability. 

In response to the public outcry, Mayor de Blasio set to work enacting New York City’s Internet Master Plan, starting with a $157 million initiative which will direct public and private investment to fund broadband infrastructure and expand low-cost or no-cost Internet access to 600,00 New Yorkers, including 200,000 city residents living in public housing, within 18 months.

The implementation of the Master Plan comes as the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) released revised Design Guidelines requiring new affordable housing projects that use city funds to be “designed and constructed to provide high-quality [I]nternet access and service as part of their lease contract...

Read more
Posted April 15, 2021 by Sean Gonsalves

New York City is looking to take a bite out of the Big Apple’s broadband gap for residents living in newly built affordable housing.

Last month, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) released revised Design Guidelines requiring new affordable housing projects that use city funds to be “designed and constructed to provide high-quality [I]nternet access and service as part of their lease contract and at no additional cost to the tenant.”

That means all new affordable housing buildings that use city funds must be wired, “to the maximum extent feasible,” to offer free high-speed Internet access that supports “four simultaneous moderate users or devices, with preferred system capacity of 100 Megabits per Second (Mbps) upload and download, per unit.”

The guidelines further stipulate that residents should also be given the option to increase their household’s level of service “at their own cost.”

“As we continue to produce affordable housing at record pace, this Administration is equally committed to ensuring that housing contributes to creating a more equitable and sustainable city. That is why our new Design Guidelines incorporate lessons learned from COVID-19 and follow best practices to promote equity, health, and sustainability,” HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll said in a press release when the new guidelines were announced. 

HPD officials said the health and economic fall-out of the pandemic had a “devastating” and “disproportionate” impact on low-income city residents, particularly communities of color.

A Pressing Need

According to the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, 29% of New York City households, nearly half of whom are living in poverty, do not have a high-speed Internet...

Read more
Posted March 31, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Join us for Episode 9 of Connect This!, where hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Joanne Hovis (President, CTC Energy and Technology) and Doug Dawson (President, CCG Consulting) to talk about the recently signed American Rescue Plan Act, which has the potential to funnel an unprecedented level of funding to communities which can be used for Internet infrastructure.

Together they'll talk about what can be done with this money, what restrictions exist, and how communities can ready themselves to embark upon broadband projects quickly. Christopher, Travis, Joanne, and Doug will also explore the viability of the variety of technologies available for deployment, and what it would look like for local officials to boldly take the reins and move the needle on locally owned information infrastructure for their communities.

The show will begin on Monday, April 5th at 4pm ET/3pm CT via this link, or watch below.

Subscribe to the show using this feed

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show.

Posted March 24, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

One component of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a $3.2 billion program designed to get families connected to available service that they otherwise might not be able to afford. The program provides a subsidy of up to $50/month for service (or $75 for tribal lands) as well as up to $100 for a device (with a household contribution) for as long as the money lasts.

On Episode 8 of Connect This!, hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) are joined by Angela Siefer (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) and Olivia Wein (National Consumer Law Center) to talk about how it will work and what their expectations are, including who will be able to take advantage of the program and what problems there might be for both the people who need it and the small ISPs that would like to participate. 

During the course of the discussion the panel talks about: eligibility requirements; the challenge of standing up a program quickly and making it available to the widest number of people possible; USI Fiber’s experience so far in becoming an eligible provider; the device benefit available, and how providers can forge partnerships with groups like PCs for People to get hardware into homes; the need for digital navigators to help community members navigate the process of getting and staying online; and the long-term prospects for renewal of the program.

Mentioned during the episode was a recent study by Professor Lloyd Levine from the School of Public Policy, University of California, Riverside, California, on outreach programs (paywall).

Watch via this link, or watch below.

Subscribe to the show using this feed

Email us at broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show. 

 

Posted March 22, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

One component of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a $3.2 billion program designed to get families connected to available service that they otherwise might not be able to afford. The program provides a subsidy of up to $50/month for service (or $75 for tribal lands) as well as up to $100 for a device (with a household contribution) for as long as the money lasts.

Join us for Episode 8 of Connect This!, where hosts Christopher Mitchell and Travis Carter (USI Fiber) will be joined by Angela Siefer (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) and Olivia Wein (National Consumer Law Center) to talk about how it will work and what our expectations are, including who will be able to take advantage of it and what problems there might be for both the people who need it and the small ISPs that would like to participate. 

The show will begin on Wednesday, March 24th at 1pm CST/2pm ET via this link, or watch below.

Subscribe to the show using this feed

Email us broadband@muninetworks.org with feedback and ideas for the show. 

Pages

Subscribe to low-income