Tag: "low-income"

Posted January 20, 2016 by Lisa Gonzalez

On January 21st, join the Media Action Grassroots Network and its partners for the #RightToConnect Twitter Townhall. The event takes place at 3 p.m. EST/12 p.m. PST. The conversation will focus on lifeline and finding ways to bring more low-income families online. MAG-Net and partners will bring together a number of those families with elected officials and advocates pursuing change.

The event will be hosted by comedian W. Kamau Bell, @wkamaubell. Guests will include:

  • FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, @MClyburnFCC
  • Senator Cory Booker, @CoryBooker
  • Van Jones, DreamCorps, @VanJones68
  • Panel of Eligible and Current Lifeline Subscribers

RSVP for the event, share the announcement with your friends, and send your questions to angella@mediajustice.org. Check it out, participate, be heard.

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Posted January 4, 2016 by Hannah Trostle

At MuniNetworks, we often focus on access to the Internet, but the impact of telecommunication policy extends beyond data. In 2016, families might finally see reasonable prices for phone calls to incarcerated loved ones.

Last October, the FCC voted to close loopholes and cap rates for Inmate Calling Service providers in jails and prisons across the nation. While incarcerated, folks couldn’t choose their long-distance service provider, and the prices these Inmate Calling Service providers demanded could reach up to $14 a minute. Although the FCC had some regulations in place, they did little to prevent add-on fees and service charges. 

These charges proved absurdly expensive for low-income people, disproportionately impacting people of color. As if that wasn’t bad enough, people with disabilities found that the Telecommunications Relay Service (which enables people with hearing or speech disabilities to use the phone) was sometimes considered an add-on. The FCC's decision puts a stop to any extra charge for this necessary service. 

We’ve covered the monopoly power that these providers have over incarcerated folks for some time. In Community Broadband Bits Episode 20, Chris spoke about prison phone justice in more detail with Amalia Deloney of the Media Action Grassroots Network and the Center for Media Justice. Deloney explained the many ways Inmate Calling Service providers exploit incarcerated people and the families.

This holiday season, the FCC’s decision allowed all families impacted by incarceration to connect with each other in the new year. Without the efforts of Media Action Grassroots Network, the Center for Media Justice, and the many people who worked on the prison phone justice issue, the FCC may have never reviewed the problem. Change can happen where it is needed most.

Posted December 3, 2015 by Lisa Gonzalez

Four low-income neighborhoods in Madison will soon have access to fast, reliable, affordable Internet access, thanks to a municipal fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) pilot program.

Fast, Affordable, Reliable...Soon!

According to a recent Cap Times article, installation will begin in the spring of 2016; community leaders anticipate the network will start serving residents in the fall. The cost of the pilot is estimated at $512,000. The original plan was to offer the pilot in two areas, but in the City Council recently approved an amendment to the city budget to cover the cost of expanding the pilot. Funds for the construction will come from the city's capital budget.

When the city first released its RFP, it received 3 proposals. Ultimately, the city selection committee chose the only FTTH proposal over two wireless proposals, citing reliability and speed as determining factors. Local Internet service provider ResTech will build the network, which will be owned by the city. Residential subscribers will have access to a minimum 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload (symmetrical) service for $9.99 per month. There will be no data caps.

Testing the Waters

The Cap Times reports that the results of the pilot will determine the next steps for the city, population 243,000, which has flirted with the idea of a citywide municipal network in the past:

In conjunction with the pilot, Madison will be pursuing a feasibility study and cost-benefit analysis to determine whether to expand the Internet service to other parts of the city in the future.

The city is working with Columbia Telecommunications Corporation for the feasibility study component as a parallel track to the pilot.

The pilot will be two years, and [Chief Information Officer Paul] Kronberger said they hope to have enough data to do the cost-benefit analysis after about one year of operation.

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