A Public Housing Digital Inclusion Blueprint

Date: 1 May 2019 | posted in: MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

At least 100,000 San Francisco residents lack adequate Internet access and miss out on economic and educational benefits. A new model, developed by Monkeybrains, a local Internet Service Provider (ISP), and the city of San Francisco, successfully bridges this digital divide for public housing residents. Thanks to low start up and maintenance costs, their solution will be financially self-sustaining for years to come. Our new report details their innovative model: A Public Housing Digital Inclusion Blueprint: Monkeybrains and San Francisco Deliver a Sustainable Gig.

Download the report here.

Some large ISPs like Comcast and AT&T have programs that serve low-income households, but the service they offer is often slow and the process for subscribing painfully bureaucratic. Monkeybrains provides high-speed Internet access to public housing units at no cost to the end user, with the same level of customer service that they would give any other subscriber. In some cases, the ISP does receive a monthly payment of $10 per unit from building management. Monkeybrains commented on what sets their approach apart:

“A lot of other ISPs would prefer to package things differently for clients that won’t pay them a standard rate — just drop Wi-Fi and call it done…That approach only invests money to further cement the digital divide by establishing different classes of communications infrastructure for different classes of residents.”


A Model for Others to Follow

Throughout the country, other communities are working to ensure their residents are able to connect to affordable and reliable Internet access.  The success of Monkeybrains and San Francisco’s partnership has blazed the trail for real solutions. Christopher Mitchell, Director of ILSR’s Community Broadband Initiative and co-author of the report, notes:

“These households need Internet access to search for jobs, improve their education, access government services, and for many other reasons common to modern living. Monkeybrains’ work in San Francisco shows how smart one time investments can guarantee high-quality access to all in public housing.”

San Francisco and Monkeybrains used innovative thinking and buy-in from various stakeholders to make high-quality Internet access a reality for low-income households. As San Francisco continues on its path to bridge the digital divide, other municipalities can use this model and follow suit. Download A Public Housing Digital Inclusion Blueprint: Monkeybrains and San Francisco Deliver a Sustainable Gig to learn more.


Photo of San Francisco via Pixabay

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Follow Christopher Mitchell:
Christopher Mitchell

Christopher Mitchell is the Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative with ILSR. He is a leading national expert on community networks, Internet access, and local broadband policies. Christopher built MuniNetworks.org, the comprehensive online clearinghouse of information about local government policies to improve Internet access. Its interactive community broadband network map tracks more than 600 such networks. He also hosts audio and video shows online, including Community Broadband Bits and Connect This! 

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Follow Hannah Rank:
Hannah Rank

Hannah Rank was a Public Policy Research Intern for the Community Broadband Networks initiative. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Public Policy at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include local economic and social development and wealth equity, as well as local government sustainability work. Hannah enjoys hiking and biking around Minnesota’s countless parks and wilderness areas. She was born and raised in the Twin Cities.