Social welfare agencies are working to bridge all kinds of gaps. They promote the economic and social wellbeing of community members by offering financial assistance, health care services, youth safety programs, affordable housing, school readiness, and more. But what about gaps in Internet access?Social Welfare Internet Access

The Covid 19 pandemic shed a bright light on how vital the Internet is to everyday life. As the digital economy speeds ahead, those without reliable internet access will fall farther behind.

Social welfare agencies, particularly Public Housing Authorities, can make an even bigger impact on the lives of the individuals and families they serve by bridging gaps in high-speed Internet access. That’s why many social welfare agencies are seeking ways to provide their customers with the devices and services they need to get online.

Fortunately, housing authorities and other social welfare agencies have several funding sources and low-cost Internet service options to pursue.

One resource for housing authorities is HUD’s ConnectHOMEUSA. ConnectHomeUSA is a collaboration of local governments, nonprofits, and private industry. They work to create locally-tailored solutions that narrow the digital divide for families with school-age children. The program launched in 27 cities and one tribal nation in 2015. Since then, 37% of HUD-assisted households with children have gained Internet access in those communities.

Public Housing Authorities can also use Capital and Operating funds to support Internet connectivity for residents. In January, 2021 the Office of Public & Indian Housing published a summary of how public housing funding can be used for procuring and upgrading computer equipment, ongoing connection fees, hotspots for individual units, and digital literacy training for residents of public housing. In their words, “…many low-income Americans, especially those served by HUD’s public housing program, have less access to broadband Internet, devices, and the training to use them. Based on recent research, only 56 percent of adults earning less than $30,000 per year have access to broadband internet at home versus 94 percent for upper-income families.”

Low-cost mobile hotspot devices and wireless Internet from Mobile Citizen make it possible to stretch public funds, grants, and other financial resources farther. For social welfare agencies and nonprofit community service organizations who qualify, Mobile Citizen offers 4G LTE or 5G wireless internet access with unlimited data at a cost of about $10 per month ($120 annually). Mobile Citizen’s Internet service is championed by a national collaboration of Educational Broadband Service licensees and is available nationwide on the T-Mobile network.

While wired connections can be impractical and even intrusive at times, mobile Internet is immediate, simple, and practical. One 4G LTE hotspot can support up to 15 devices while 5G hotspots can support 30 and more, meaning a large family or a group of people in an apartment computer center can do their schoolwork, connect with health services, or apply for jobs.

Mobile Citizen believes that by reducing the long-standing barriers to high-speed Internet, underserved communities can prosper. To help close the digital divide and accelerate economic mobility in your community, contact the Mobile Citizen Customer Service Center at 877-216-9603.

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