Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2018

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 8 | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | 2 9 NEWARK FINDS THE ANSWER DEEP UNDERGROUND In 2015, Newark, New Jersey, made significant headway in advancing better local connectivity by tapping into the dark fiber under the city. e city had recently launched Newark Fiber to serve local businesses and wanted to use this publicly owned resource for a second purpose as well: helping low- income residents access the internet. Georgia King Village (GKV), a low-income apartment complex, is managed by the Newark Housing Authority (NHA) and owned by private developer, L+M Development Partners. Several years ago, NHA installed fiber infrastructure in the buildings to improve safety and reduce communications costs. By tapping into the existing fiber infrastructure and Newark Fiber resources, the city established Wi-Fi in all the buildings. In April 2018, Newark Fiber finished connecting the two GKV campus towers to the network to provide backhaul for Wi-Fi to all 172 units. e service provides download speeds of 50 to 100 Mbps and is free for residents. Prior to the installation of the Wi-Fi network, residents purchased internet access directly from Comcast or Verizon. Josh Weisstuch of L+M Partners estimates that residents paid between $60 and $120 per month for those connections. Weisstuch says, "GKV is a 100 percent low-income building. About 70 percent are very-low income residents. Providing a service like free internet to such residents not only frees up the limited amounts of money for households but [also] provides a resource that is quickly becoming a necessity in today's world. We all know how important affordable housing is to cities across the country; the addition of subsidized, reliable internet will help in children's education, searching for jobs and more." Many GKV residents use vouchers to pay for their housing, and L+M Partners is willing to supply funding to connect them, partly because Newark Fiber rates are so reasonable. L+M Partners believes the Newark philanthropic community will help connect more public housing campuses to Newark Fiber in the future. GREENLIGHT MEANS 'GO,' REGARDLESS OF INCOME Greenlight, the publicly owned network in Wilson, North Carolina, approached the community's digital divide problem from several angles. In late 2016, the community network, which has been offering FTTH in Wilson since 2008, began providing symmetrical 40 Mbps for $10 per month to public housing residents. e Wilson Housing Authority provides routers to residents at no charge. In addition, Greenlight offers a prepaid internet access program, which is a lifeline for people who have poor credit or an outstanding balance from unpaid past bills. Subscribers can establish and maintain an account for Greenlight service simply by maintaining minimal amounts in their accounts. With this approach, subscribers can schedule internet access by the day, stretching their budgets. When their accounts run down, they have to make a deposit to use the internet again. If they have past due balances, some of the deposit will be used to pay down the bill and the rest will be used for internet access on the days they specify. Unlike a system in which the provider simply shuts off delinquent accounts until they are fully current, the Wilson system allows subscribers to slowly improve their credit over time. e program benefits subscribers, and it benefits Greenlight as well by reducing the amount of churn. By increasing subscribers' ability to pay through a flexible approach, Greenlight experiences fewer disconnects and reconnects. Most important, it empowers more people in Wilson to take advantage of modern technology to create new opportunities for themselves. v Lisa Gonzalez is a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. She can be reached at is article was based in part on reporting by Hannah Trostle. The Wilson (North Carolina) Housing Authority's first digital learning class. Wilson's Greenlight serves Housing Authority properties at low cost.

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