Public housing

Jersey City Announces Low-Cost Internet Access for Public Housing Residents

Jersey City residents living in Housing Authority buildings will be able to purchase high-speed internet access at deeply discounted prices and even get it for free, city officials announced Tuesday.

The city is partnering with Andrena, a New Jersey-based internet service provider, in its latest initiative to expand high-speed internet access to public housing complexes, Mayor Steve Fulop and Jersey City Housing said. Authority (JCHA).

The program has been launched in the Berry Gardens senior housing development and service to communities in Booker T. Washington, Curries Woods and Marion Gardens will be commissioned in the coming months.

JCHA launched a public tender for broadband infrastructure and high-speed, low-cost Internet services in 2020 and contracted Andrena to wire four JCHA public housing complexes. During the same period, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) began providing nationwide Wi-Fi subsidies to eligible households, including public housing residents.

Through a contract with JCHA, Andrena will offer public housing residents deep discounts on high-speed internet service starting at $20 per month. Combined with the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program, there is no cost for Andrena’s service to JCHA residents.

“The digital rise during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, work and educate, and it has made the need to bridge the digital divide urgent,” Fulop said. “That’s why we invest in the necessary infrastructure within our social housing estates, so that our most needy families have equitable opportunities in education, employment and beyond.”

The expansion of affordable high-speed internet opportunities at JCHA properties began with implementation in Jersey City’s Berry Gardens public housing community for seniors, where more than 350 units were connected to faster, more reliable internet. .

JCHA and Andrena hosted weekly community events to help Berry Gardens residents sign up for internet service, connect devices, and obtain internet grants through FCC grant programs.

“So far, the service has been amazing, and Berry Gardens seniors are enjoying low-cost, and even free, internet access through Andrena and the FCC program,” said Eleanor Mixson, president of the Residents’ Council of Berry Gardens.

The EBB was a temporary initiative created by Congress under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 to subsidize broadband access during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program works like an internet voucher, providing a monthly subsidy of up to $50 for internet service for eligible households.

On December 31, the EBB transitioned to a long-term program called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) with $14 billion in funding. All JCHA and low-income Jersey City residents can apply for monthly internet grants of up to $30 through the CPA.

Andrena Internet offers two monthly plans for JCHA residents: $20 per month for up to 50 Mbps or $32 per month for up to 100 Mbps of wireless Internet. Additionally, all JCHA and low-income residents of the city can apply online for internet service grants through the ACP program.

Anyone living in federally subsidized housing is guaranteed CPA eligibility. And like the EBB, the ACP will fully cover the cost of Andrena’s top-tier broadband plan for JCHA residents.

“We operate in communities all across New Jersey, and it’s clear that the digital divide is a very real issue,” said Neil Chatterjee, co-founder and CEO of Andrena. “Municipalities and housing authorities across the state have the ability to bridge this divide, and the Jersey City Housing Authority is a leader on this front. We are honored to help them achieve this vision for their residents.

George Bell, who lives in the Berry Gardens Apartments, subscribed to the new internet service for $20 a month. “It was easy to sign up and it’s a good saving compared to what I used to pay,” said Bell, who uses it on both her phone and tablet.

In addition to discounted Internet services, the EBB and ACP programs offer a one-time rebate of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop or tablet computer purchased from a participating vendor. The one-time rebate requires a consumer co-pay of more than $10 and less than $50.

According to federal guidelines, households are eligible for ACP if at least one member is eligible for Medicaid or SNAP benefits; receives a free or reduced school lunch; is a recipient of a PELL grant; or the household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. For more information on CPA eligibility, please visit the ACP website here.

“The pandemic has laid bare the critical need of students, workers and isolated seniors for access to Wi-Fi and devices,” said Vivian-Brady-Phillips, Executive Director of JCHA. “JCHA began understanding and solving digital inequalities in late 2018 after joining HUD and EveryoneOn’s ConnectHomeUSA initiative. We are so excited to see our efforts reach this stage.