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Case Study: Availability through Partnerships with the Jersey City Housing Authority

The Jersey City Housing Authority (JCHA) in Jersey City, NJ, provides affordable housing for thousands of families, seniors, and people with disabilities. JCHA had been working with ISPs to ensure residents have affordable internet, especially given a 2019 resident survey found just a third of residents had internet access and the only device available to the majority of those connected residents was a smartphone. The need to address this digital divide was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Trena Hinton, Assistant Director of Resident Empowerment and Community Engagement at JCHA shared, “People will say that [they] have access to internet or Wi-Fi, but we found out during the pandemic, especially with school-aged kids…there was not enough speed or gigabytes to really access the learning tools and the learning platforms that they need[ed].” To ensure that all residents have access to reliable, high-speed internet, JCHA put out a public bid and contracted with two ISPs to set up internet networks available at low or no cost to residents within six of their public housing developments. The ISPs provided unique solutions to address “last mile to the building” service to connect JCHA buildings to high-speed broadband. Both ISPs utilize point to point and point to multipoint architecture, existing inbuilding wiring, and individual in-unit Wi-Fi routers to provide connectivity within homes for learners and their caregivers/families. This project provides service to 1,500 units of public housing, including residences of over 700 school-aged youth.

In addition to making broadband available, JCHA ensured that it would be affordable for residents. Both partner ISPs participate in the ACP, and the high-speed packages offered start at $15–20 per month, a price range that is fully covered under the ACP benefit. JCHA is also attending to adoption barriers by conducting outreach to and support for residents who are currently un- or under-connected. JCHA and the ISPs ensure that all residents have the support they need to register for both the broadband service and ACP. One of the ISPs developed a streamlined application with FCC approval that allows residents to subscribe to their service using the ACP in a matter of minutes. JCHA and the ISPs also co-promote and host registration events for residents to apply for ACP and sign up for broadband with the support of JCHA employees. Additionally, JCHA included in their public bid that ISPs could not require background checks or credit checks, annual contracts, or additional fees for essential equipment to limit barriers to adoption. Finally, JCHA ensures that residents are part of the process and supports outreach through elected resident representatives and trusted, on-the-ground employees focused on digital inclusion, resident empowerment, and community engagement.