On Wednesday, Council Member Julie Menin announced the launch of a new initiative to bring affordable broadband to the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Isaacs Houses and the Holmes Towers. Menin is partnering with the nation’s foremost nonprofit in the broadband access field, EducationSuperHighway (ESH), and the Stanley/Isaacs Center, a service provider within NYCHA’s Holmes/Isaacs Development. The initiative will provide affordable quality broadband for thousands of residents living in the development.
Millions of New Yorkers are excluded partially or entirely from modern life due to lack of access to broadband, which is particularly endemic for NYCHA residents who do not have broadband due to prohibitive costs. Forty nine percent of NYCHA’s residents make an annual income considered 100 percent below the federal poverty line, which consists of less than $10,830 per family annually.
Nearly one-third of New Yorkers lack access to broadband and expanding broadband to underserved populations is a critical goal of the City. The Mayor’s Office of Innovation and Technology is supportive of Council Member Menin’s initiative and is watching the results to see if it can be modeled and scaled to be used across NYCHA complexes.
“Bridging the digital divide in NYCHA is a major step in tackling inequality across New York City,” said Menin. “The pandemic has shown us that internet and broadband services are essential and critical for economic prosperity. I am thrilled that this initiative will help thousands of NYCHA residents get connected for free and I look forward to seeing this model used to bridge the digital divide in our City.”
“A 21st-century city deserves 21st-century infrastructure, and that means every New Yorker should have access to affordable, high-quality broadband, including the thousands of Isaacs Houses and Holmes Towers residents who will benefit from this incredible initiative,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “I applaud Council Member Menin for driving forward this innovative partnership and embodying the ‘Get Stuff Done’ spirit for her constituents.”
Saundrea I. Coleman, Co-Founder of the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition and Community Board 8 Officer and Member called the program “a great step to help alleviate the digital divide that impacts low to moderate income earners within public housing. Tenants without internet can now have the service and those that struggle retaining their service plan will actually gain a bit of financial relief.”
Menin and ESH worked with Verizon and Spectrum to offer quality low-income plans and to pre-qualify all NYCHA residents in Holmes and Isaacs for these plans. In addition, the program works to sign up residents for the Federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), an FCC subsidy of $30 a month for broadband. NYCHA residents are eligible, but few know of the benefits existence. Paired with this federal subsidy, the Spectrum and Verizon plans, both priced at below $30, result in free broadband for the NYCHA residents. Residents can sign up without any sort of credit check and residents who had issues with payment in the past will not be prohibited from service.
“Broadband internet access is critical for all New Yorkers, especially in the age of COVID-19 where we have been working and learning through our internet connected devices, said Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright. “I commend Council Member Julie Menin for partnering with EducationSuperHighway (ESH) to automatically enroll thousands of eligible residents at Holmes/Isaacs with the benefit of low-cost internet service. This is a local victory in further closing the digital divide and combating inequality.”