The programme aims to help eliminate the digital divide in San Francisco by bringing free high-speed internet to residents living in affordable housing.
San Francisco, California, has received a national award for a programme that has provided 1,500 low‑income families with access to free, high-speed internet.
The Closing the Digital Divide – Fibre to Housing progamme is a collaboration between the Department of Technology (DoT), the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, and local internet service provider, Monkeybrains.
The city’s Department of Technology was recognised with a 2019 CIO 100 award for its work on the project. The CIO 100 awards honour organisations around the world that exemplify the highest level of operational and strategic excellence in information technology.
The programme aims to help eliminate the digital divide in San Francisco by bringing free high-speed internet to residents living in affordable housing. It will be extended to an additional 1,600 families over the next year.
“I am proud of the city agencies and their collaborative work to bringing quality internet access for public housing residents,” said Naomi Kelly, city administrator. “As we continue to build public housing units and our infrastructure, we must also look at our digital infrastructure through an equitable lens.”
Access to technology has become increasingly important for accessing opportunity, but the digital divide still exists in San Francisco. About one in eight residents lack high-speed home internet service, one in seven families in public school lack a computer connected to the internet at home, and one in seven residents lack basic digital literacy such as the ability to send email or use a search engine.
In particular, many who are low-income, of limited English proficiency, senior, and/or have a disability struggle to access reliable high-quality service, according to the DoT.
“As we continue to build public housing units and our infrastructure, we must also look at our digital infrastructure through an equitable lens”
“Providing low-income families with access to high-speed internet is about equity and ensuring every family in our city has access to the resources they need to pay their bills, connect with city services, or do their homework,” added London Breed, mayor of San Francisco.
“We believe that every person deserves an opportunity to thrive, and the Department of Technology’s fibre to housing programme helps achieve that goal by closing the digital divide and providing fast and reliable internet access.”
The programme started in 2018 and provides free, high-speed internet to low-income residents by leveraging existing municipal fibre resources, staff expertise, and private sector partnerships.
In the first phase of the project, city staff connected more than 1,500 low-income families with long-term sustainable internet access at no cost to users.
The project’s second phase is currently underway and will provide internet to another 1,600 units by June 2020. According to the DoT, the completed project will result in a service benefit of approximately $400m over 20 years.
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