We understand that access to reliable and affordable broadband is essential in today’s world, as it affects not only individuals but entire communities. In this article, we will discuss the efforts of various states to fund broadband upgrades in affordable rental housing.
Getting access to broadband services remains a challenge for many residents of affordable rental housing. Though these properties are often in areas that have high-speed internet service, physical access and cost may keep households offline. Older buildings, for example, may have never been wired for in-unit service, or may be in neighborhoods where infrastructure has not been upgraded. The available service, meanwhile, may be difficult for many residents to afford, creating another barrier to home broadband subscriptions.
Recognizing these challenges, several states have directed funding toward programs focused on expanding broadband access in affordable rental housing. California established a public housing account within the California Advanced Services Fund, which provides grants for broadband infrastructure, adoption, and planning.
The public housing account, which offers “grants and loans to low-income communities to finance projects to connect broadband networks that offer free broadband service,” according to the California Public Utilities Code, received $15 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year. The money can cover up to 100% of the cost of deploying broadband in publicly supported housing developments, those operated by public housing agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations that provide state or federally subsidized affordable housing or farmworker housing.
The Importance of Broadband in Affordable Housing
Access to broadband has become a fundamental requirement for daily living, whether for work, education, or entertainment. However, not everyone has the same level of access, and this is particularly true for those living in affordable rental housing. Many low-income households do not have broadband internet at home due to high costs or lack of infrastructure. As a result, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to job opportunities, education, and social interaction.
State Initiatives for Broadband Upgrades in Affordable Housing
Several states have recognized the importance of providing broadband access to affordable housing communities and have taken steps to fund broadband upgrades. One such state is California, which recently approved a $6 billion investment to fund broadband infrastructure upgrades, including in affordable housing communities. The state also created the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), which provides grants and loans to broadband providers to help them expand services in underserved areas.
Another state, Minnesota, has a program called Border-to-Border Broadband, which aims to provide high-speed internet access to every home and business in the state by 2026. The program has already funded several broadband projects in affordable housing communities, including the Red Lake Reservation and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
Benefits of Broadband Upgrades in Affordable Housing
Investing in broadband upgrades for affordable housing communities has several benefits, both for the individuals living there and for the broader community. Firstly, it can improve educational outcomes for children by providing access to online learning resources. Secondly, it can increase economic opportunities for residents by enabling them to work from home or access job training programs online. Thirdly, it can improve healthcare outcomes by providing access to telemedicine services. Finally, it can improve social connectivity, as residents can stay connected with friends and family members online.
Access to reliable and affordable broadband is essential in today’s world, and it is particularly important for those living in affordable rental housing. Thankfully, several states have recognized the importance of broadband access and have taken steps to fund broadband upgrades in affordable housing communities. By investing in broadband upgrades, these states are not only improving the lives of individuals living in affordable housing but also contributing to the economic and social development of their communities.