Residents of affordable housing may be fortunate to be stably housed, but are facing growing financial hardships, increased food insecurity, increased social isolation for seniors, and an acute need for virtual health options. All of these challenges are made more difficult by the fact that so many low income Americans lack in-home affordable high-speed internet connections and devices that fully support educational, employment, and health needs.
Resources last updated 9/14/22
Resources for Owners
- Leading Age CAST released a Broadband in Affordable Housing white paper to help organizations understand the process for bringing broadband connectivity to their communities affordably. (March, 2022)
- Rural LISC Rural LISC & CTC Energy and Technology, an industry leader in broadband and telecommunications consulting, produced the Affordable Housing Developer’s Broadband Handbook and an accompanying guide for lenders, to help affordable housing stakeholders plan for, pay for, and advocate for better internet connectivity in their housing communities. (March, 2022)
- Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) published Bridging the Digital Divide in Affordable Housing Communities: A Practitioner's Resource for Multifamily Operators. This resource provides an overview of the current challenges, case studies of short and longer term solutions, and practical considerations for affordable housing operators and their partners seeking to connect residents to the wide range of online platforms that support their well-being.
- National Digital Inclusion Alliance promotes a Digital Navigator Model that owners and resident services practitioners can leverage to either cross-train their own staff and/or identify and work with partners who operate digital navigator programs in their communities and that can help to support residents.
- As an example, National Housing Trust (NHT) has built a partnership with Literacy Minnesota to help build a digital literacy program to support residents in NHT properties, and is leveraging the AmeriCorp VISTA program to help develop and staff this initiative. This 2-page overview provides an example of the initial framing for this initiative.
- Mercy Housing developed a technology/device lending program whereby residents sign out computer devices and/or hotspots for a fixed period of time, before returning the device. As part of this effort, they developed Device Loan Checkout Forms -- one designed for families and one designed for seniors.
Resident Digital Access Survey Tools -- Many organizations are developing survey/assessment tools to better understand the level of residents' access to and use of internet (access to an affordable high-speed connection, access to a fully capable device that supports their needs, and if residents reporting having the skills necessary to use the technology). Survey tools can be adapted from tools like Minnesota Literacy's assessment form or from BRIDGE Housing's Digital Learning Survey or Eden Housing's Technology Access Survey tool.
Low Cost Devices and Software
Reduced Rate Services and Free Hot Spots - Internet Plan Listings
On August 5, 2022, the FCC approved an order establishing a one-year pilot program and introduce several additional actions to increase participation among HUD-assisted households in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The one-year pilot program, "Your Home, Your Internet" will provide up to $5 million for 20 pilot participants operating across Tribal, rural, and urban communities for communication and other purposes aimed at increasing enrollment of HUD-assisted households, and an additional $5 million for FCC's own outreach and coordination with HUD. SAHF also developed a two-pager on these actions. The National Digital Inclusion Alliance has more information on the ACP grant outreach programs.
Senior Planet's Aging Connected is a national campaign aimed at bridging the digital divide for older adults. Senior Planet participants, and those new to seniorplanet.org, can use Aging Connected to learn more about the government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
- On May 9, 2022, The Biden Administration announced a new comprehensive effort to increase enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The Administration has secured commitments from 20 leading internet service providers, covering more than 80% of the population across urban, suburban and rural areas, to either increase speeds or cut prices, making sure they all offer ACP-eligible households high-speed, high-quality internet plans for no more than $30/month. As part of this effort, the Administration launched a new website - Getinternet.gov to help households sign up for the ACP.
- As part of the Administration's efforts, HUD is conducting outreach to HUD-assisted owners and stakeholders to increase resident participation in the ACP by informing HUD households that ACP does not count as income for determining family rent or impact eligibility for HUD programs. HUD also developed a mini-guide of technical assistance materials to support HUD-assisted communities in the enrollment process.
- On November 15, 2021, the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) was enacted, providing $14.2 billion for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), modeled off of the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program (launched in May 2021 and allocated $3.2 billion to provide eligible low-income households with a monthly discount of up to $50 on their internet service). The ACP launched December 31, 2021 and provides eligible households with up to $30 off their internet service ($75 for tribal lands) as well as a connected device. EBB households enrolled before December 30, 2021 will continue to receive the higher benefit amount through March 1, 2022. To check eligibility and enroll, go to FCC.gov/ACP
- The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has launched a new webpage on the Affordable Connectivity Program. The page includes essential information, helpful links, and a thorough FAQ section.
National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) - has listings of local government and state led initiatives around internet access, devices, digital literacy & tech support, and planning & coordinating capacity. The lists continue to update as new initiatives emerge.
- Everyone On - Low cost Internet and Computer Offer Locator Tool (using zip code)
Broadband Now - Low cost Internet Options for Low and Fixed Income Households
PCs for People - Low Cost Internet (highspeed 4G LTE starting at $15/month)
Both nonprofit organizations and individuals who earn 200% below the poverty are eligible for this rate. https://www.pcsforpeople.org/eligibility/
Human-I-T offers a tool to connect customers to low cost internet providers near them. After filling out a request online, a Human-I-T employee will either text or call in 1-2 business days with additional information. Human I-T offers calls in both English and Spanish.
Reduced Rate Services - Specific Internet Offers
Comcast Internet Essentials –
- Comcast offering free/reduced cost internet for Internet Essentials customers through the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Additionally, for all new and existing Internet Essentials customers, the speed of the program’s Internet service has permanently increased from 25/3 Mbps to 50/5 Mbps (also offering Internet Essentials Plus at 100/10 Mbps).
For more information and updates from Comcast related to Coronavirus, visit: https://corporate.comcast.com/covid-19
Comcast Lift Zones - In September 2020, Comcast announced a multiyear program to establish 1,000+ Wifi-connected 'Lift Zones' in community centers nationwide. Lift Zones will provide students and families with free internet access and educational and digital skills content to help families and site coordinators navigate online learning. Enter your zip code here to find a Lift Zone near you.
T Mobile - Through its Assurance Wireless plan, eligible households participating in the ACP can receive unlimited data, free unlimited texting, free unlimited calling and free 10GB monthly mobile hotspot data. A free Android smartphone is also available for new customers (model based on availability).
Cox -Through its Connect2Compete program, offers eligible families internet service for $9.95/month with speeds up to 50/3 mbps Cox Connect2Compete | Affordable Home Internet. Families with K-12 children are eligible if they qualify for SNAP, National School Lunch, and/or TANF; receive Tenant-Based Vouchers, Project-Based Vouchers, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance; and/or who live in public housing
Cox also offers reduced cost-plan for other households based on participation in federal assistance programs. ConnectAssist provides households internet service for $30/month with speeds up to 50/3 mbps.
Cox is participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program
More than 3 million Cox Wifi hotspots across the country will remain open to help keep the public connected. Enter your zipcode here to find a hotspot near you
Spectrum - is offering high-speed internet access for students and seniors through Spectrum Internet Assist for $17.99/month with speeds of 30/4 mbps and no data caps
- Available for households with one or more recipients of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the NSLP, or SSI (for applicants age 65+)
- This offer is not valid for current Spectrum internet subscribers or any former Spectrum customers with outstanding debt, no contract required
- Spectrum is participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program
AT&T: “Access by AT&T” is available in 21 states. AT&T is temporarily expanding eligibility based on income and to households participating in National School Lunch or Headstart programs.
- One family member must be eligible for SNAP.
For a limited time, customers in locations with available speeds of 10 mbps are eligible for an upgrade to 25 mbps
AT&T is participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program, but the discount is not available on Access plans.
Verizon - new Fios customers who qualify for Lifeline will receive a $20 per month discount on their in-home internet service for as long as they remain eligible for the program, bringing the cost to as low as $19.99 per month for 200/200 Mbps internet with no data caps. A $15/month router charge applies as well as a $99 setup.
Lifeline - has postponed annual re-certification requirements through March 31, 2022.
The Lifeline program provides a subsidy to eligible residents for phone and/or Internet service. Eligiblity based on income (<135% of federal poverty line) or participation in one of the following federal assistance programs: SNAP, Medicaid, Public Housing, SSI, Tribal Programs, Veteran Pensions,
This program still has a limited number of minutes. Residents have reported limiting their use of this phone to avoid running out of minutes.
Mediacom Communications offers its Connect2Compete program for eligible students. The cost is $9.95/month with speeds up to 25 mbps and includes equipment. Households qualify if there is one student in K-12, at least one child qualifies for free or reduced lunch, and has no outstanding debt to Mediacom (families are encouraged to contact Mediacom to work out payment plans). Offer is available to new customers only and there is no deposit or contract required.
InternetFirst is offering two months of free internet service to new customers that qualify for public assistance programs ~$9.95 per month for 12 months thereafter
- InternetFirst offers download speeds up to 50 Mbps, free installation, and no contract or credit check
- InternetFirst is available in: California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington state.
NDIA offers resources on its Digital Navigator Model, a scalable, relationship-based framework for organizations providing digital inclusion services to help residents gain internet access, a connected device and digital literacy skills.
- Dorot has created "Tech Made Easy for Seniors" instructional guides that provide step-by step guidance for number of programs, platforms, and devices.
- Everyone On - a selection of tutorials and training resources for using computers, email basics, internet basics
- Senior Planet operated through OATS (Older Adults Technology Services) has developed a number of trainings to tools to combat social isolation including: an easy-to-follow Zoom Conferencing Guide, an online banking curriculum "Ready Set Bank" (in partnership with Capital One) which features a demo banking site to help users get comfortable with an online interface, and a number of other online resources, trainings and events that seniors can take part in.
- Tech Pals provides free tech support to help older adults.
- Generations on Line provides free trainings on smartphones and tablets for individuals and organizations serving seniors, as well as tutorials on videoconferencing and telehealth, and a “family coaching kit” to help older adults with technology. Find out more here: Generations on Line
- Human-I-T offers a training course on Internet basics in both English and Spanish. The course is immediately available upon request
Tech for Learners has an online bank of free and low cost education tools, programs, and websites. They offer a variety of programs, categorized by grade level, content type, and product type.
- Cyber Seniors has a number of trainings on tools and apps directed at increasing senior digital literacy. Webinars occur regularly in English, French, and Spanish. Viewers can enroll and attend the session live online or watch the webinar later on YouTube.
LinkedIn has an online course on the fundamentals of working with computer operating systems and applications, and offers an introduction on processing tools Microsoft Word and Excel. Another online LinkedIn course shows users how to safely access information online, collaborate and connect with others using online productivity tools, and share content.
The Texas State Library and Museum Commission has a free, public-use digital literacy curriculum with courses on computer skills, Microsoft Office products, and finding employment.
Candoo Tech provides tech support and training (at cost) specifically designed for older adults and partners with libraries, senior centers, and senior living communities.
GetSetUp is an online community for older adults that offers live classes taught by peers who are experts in their field, social hours hosted by community members, and special events with speakers who directly address areas of interest to older adults. Classes are taught in English, Spanish, Hindi and Mandarin. *Classes are made free through select Health Insurance Plans and Local Area Agencies on Aging or Benefit programs.*