Urban Edge 

RFP Info Session

Columbus Corridor Neighborhood Network

Agenda

Introduction

Discussion

Existing Conditions

Community Network Design

Goals

  • HQ in Jackson Square

  • Builds affordable housing

  • Provides resident support and community engagement

  • Helps families build wealth

  • Prevents displacement

  • Seeks out partnerships to better serve the community

  • Pandemic revealed many long-standing inequities, including the digital divide

Urban Edge

  • Housing

  • Transportation

  • Climate Resilience and Clean Energy

  • Economic Development

  • Land Use

  • Municipal Government

  • Policy

  • Digital Access

Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Phases of Work

  • Evaluation of Current Internet Providers and Levels of Service
  • Analysis of Community Access to Device and Internet

Phase 1A: Existing Conditions (July - August)

Phase 1B: Community Needs Assessment (August - December)

  • Identification of Population Specific Challenges and Needs via Survey
  • Focus Group(s) and Key Stakeholder Interviews with Community Members
  • Review of Existing Infrastructure and Assets Along Columbus Ave

  • Assessment of Potential Technology Interventions and Programs

Phase 2: Infrastructure and Technology Evaluation (January - March)

  • Development of an Operational Framework that Urban Edge  can use to Implement a Tech Solution, PLUS Programs for Skills Development and Community Ownership

Phase 3: Digital Operation Framework (April - May)

Three Determining Factors of Digital Access

Devices

Connection

Adequate Device

Literacy

Fast​

Affordable​

Router​

Personal Computer /Laptop

Use of Technology​

Ensuring functioning equipment​

Evaluating quality of information and privacy risks​

Digital Justice Principles

Digital justice provides multiple layers of communications infrastructure in order to ensure that every member of the community has access to lifesaving emergency information.

Digital justice ensures that all members of our community have equal access to media and technology, as producers as well as consumers.

Digital justice values all different languages, dialects and forms of communication.

Source: Allied Media, Teaching Community Technology Handbook

Existing Conditions Analysis

In June 2021 the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a map that  displays key indicators of broadband needs across the country.

 

Columbus Ave Corridor stood out

Devices

U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) National Indicators of Broadband Need

Not Connected

Total Surveys Conducted

Target Survey Goal

200

265

Area Population

Race/Ethnicity

40%

Seniors

Area PopulationAge

Surveys

19%

12%

Seniors

40%

Black / African American

Black / African American

35%

Area Population

Race/Ethnicity

Hispanic or Latinx

Hispanic or Latinx

40%

56%

Columbus Ave Corridor Resident Survey

According to Census data, 27 to 39% of “Columbus Ave Corridor” households do not have access to the internet.

What was learned from the Survey? 

~27% 

Of residents do not currently currently have an internet subscription.

That number is just 7% when we look at all US households 

~54% of seniors do not have an internet subscription in their home.

Affordability is often cited as a primary reason for the lack of an internet connection.

Is it Affordable?

~63%

of survey respondents without an internet subscription cite the reason as "too expensive"

 

52% of respondents have an annual household income of less than $25,000

Among non-broadband users, 45% say a reason why they do not have broadband at home is that the monthly cost is too expensive (Pew Researh Center)

Affordability is not the only barrier to adoption. 

What was learned from the Survey? 

~15%

 of those without an Internet subscription say they don't know how to subscribe

Focus Groups

Individual Conversations

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder insights:

Warren Williams, E.D, Three Squares Main Streets

Sandra Waldon, Dimmock Health Center

Mike Lynch, City of Boston, Director of Broadband and Cable

Salvatore Pina, Leslie Wood, Mya Bowen; Roxbury Community College

Amy Nishman, Jewish Vocational Services (JVS), Senior Vice President of Strategy

Nessie Ruiz, Tech Goes Home

Milton Erving , Timothy Smith Network

Scott Hagerty, InSource

Denise Delgado, Egleston Square Main Streets (email correspondence)

Lydia Agro and Joel Wool, Boston Housing Authority

Urban Edge residents and community leaders

 

 

Urban Edge Staff

Affordable Housing Groups, JPNDC, TNB, MACDC, Winn Companies

Stakeholder constituency: Seniors, public housing residents, families, jobseekers, healthcare patients, community college and continuing Ed students, immigrants, business owners, transitional housing residents

  • Desire for partnership between organizations to close the digital divide.
  • Request support and collaboration in order to qualify for incoming state and federal aid
  • Digital Literacy for seniors, career (re) training, business owners and ESL learners

Stakeholder constituency: Seniors, public housing residents, families, jobseekers, healthcare patients, community college and continuing Ed students, immigrants, business owners, transitional housing residents

Operational Framework Goals

90% of Columbus Corridor residents are connected to affordable, secure, high quality broadband service.  

 

73% of all residents are currently connected to broadband

Goal:

90% of all residents connected

0%

100%

Connectivity Goal:

90% of Columbus Corridor residents report confidence using or accessing support to use digital tools to pay bills, communicate, access resources and maintain their security and privacy online.

82% report confidence using devices

57% feel comfortable resolving issues related to internet access

Goal: 90%

0%

100%

Digital Literacy Goal:

Identify the unconnected and create an affordable pathway for those individuals to be connected to the Internet, if they so wish.

To accomplish these goals, MAPC believes that Urban Edge and its partners must do the following: 

Promote, and/or create digital literacy training opportunities and/or incorporate components of digital literacy into existing programs.

Create, promote and support opportunities for community residents to engage and lead digital access and equity work in their community.  

Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

Columbus Corridor WIFI Network

Tech Goes Home

Coordinate among CBO's

Digital Navigators

Digital Stewards

Digital Navigators / Digital Stewards

Digital Navigators

Digital Stewards

  • Different from Navigators, Digital Stewards are community members who receive advanced training in internet network technology. 
  • They are able to support community-focused WiFi programs that support free and open internet networks.
  • Individuals who address the digital inclusion process — home connectivity, devices, and digital skills
  • Navigators can be volunteers or cross-trained staff who already work in social service agencies, libraries, health, and more who offer remote and socially distant in-person guidance. Can help support the critical issue of adoption as well as access.

Examples

NDIA w/ Salt Lake City Library

Providence w/ Digital Promise

Connecticut State Library

Examples

Southern Connected Communities

Red Hook Digital Stewards

Chelsea, Everett, Malden

Community Network Design

Digital

Resources

Staff

Programming

Network

People

Social Networks

Community Groups

Fiber routes

Equipment

Design, installation and maintenance

Buildings

Towers

Poles

Rooms

Community Networks Assets

Physical

Organizational

Social

City of Boston

Internet Service Providers

Managed Network Vendors

City of Boston, BHA

Urban Edge property

Partner CDC's property

 

Urban Edge Staff and structure

Stakeholder staff (CDC's, CBO's)

State and Federal Resources

Urban Edge residents

Stakeholder constituents

Community College students

Local Businesses

Clusters in Columbus Corridor

Mildred Hailey

JPNDC, TCB, Urban Edge, BHA

Cluster 2

225 and 250 Centre (TCB)

1599 Columbus, Urban Edge Offices, Academy Homes, Jackson Commons (Urban Edge)

Cluster 3

1785 Columbus (Horizons for the Homeless, Youthbuild)

Amory Terrace, Bancroft Apts, Dimock-Bragdon, Holtzer Park (Urban Edge)

125 Amory (TCB)

75 & 25 Amory (JPNDC)

 

Cluster 4

Egleston Crossing, Egleston Center, UE Apartments (Urban Edge)

Doris Bunte Apartments (BHA)

Cluster 5

Walker Park, Dixwell Park, Wardman, Westminster (Urban Edge)

Urban Edge Property Types

Addresses listed in RFP attachment

Image courtesy of Resilient Communities, Community Technology NY

Columbus Corridor Network Design

$30 subsidy available to income eligible residents for internet, $75 for device. acpbenefit.org

$50M Digital Equity Fund allocated under State ARPA Legislature. Parameters and programs TBD.

Administering $46.5B in IIJA funds for broadband. Includes a $100M allocation to Mass as a baseline. Final determination forthcoming.

Funding Resources

RFP Details 

Phase 1: Design of a Wireless Ring: A wired/wireless "ring" enabling 6-8 Gateway (strategically located buildings) properties to be on-Net and able to provide Internet bandwidth to users that meet broadband speed guidelines established by Urban Edge and its partners. E.g. 100/100 Mbps per household. 

Phase 2: Design extension of the Wireless Ring from Gateway properties to Secondary properties (Urban Edge and partner residential properties) within the boundaries of the neighborhood network, maintaining speed and quality of service. To bring all properties on-net, a mix of wired and wireless technologies may be required. Vendors should consider future proof, resilient infrastructure as well speed of deployment, cost, and redundancy when determining best network infrastructure.  

Phase 3: Design in-building wiring and wireless access points for Gateway and Secondary properties that bring the internet connection into resident homes. This may be accomplished through strategically placed WIFI access points or wiring directly to apartments. 

Goals of RFP 

Identify technical partner to create network design and support development of funding proposal

Learn equipment and labor costs for network design and apartment access of a prescribed set of buildings

Understand how community members will be engaged through the building of a community network

  • Goal Alignment
  • Experience and Qualifications
  • Relationship building
  • Stakeholder communication
  • Training and employment opportunities
  • User Support
  • Network Design- Robust, futureproof infrastructure vs cost efficiency vs speed of deployment
  • Expected costs with % of contingency
  • Network resiliency and redundancy
  • Sustainability (tech and $$$)

Additional Information

According to this Census data 39% of “Columbus Ave Corridor” households do not have access to the internet.

Households Without Internet

Households Without a Computer

According to this Census data 27.1% of “Columbus Ave Corridor” households do not have a computer.

Devices

The Columbus Ave Corridor experiences substantially higher levels of digital divide issues than Boston as a whole.

Devices

Digital Access Needs Compared to Boston

Household Size and Reliability

Devices

38%

of respondents disagree with "People in my household always have access to a computer if needed"

Device Access

According to Census data, 20 to 27% of "Columbus Ave Corridor" households do not have a computer. 

95% of Columbus Corridor residents believe Urban Edge supports their digital access issues and needs 

Devices

An Adequate

Device

Literacy

Connection

Increase awareness of existing resources

Short- Term

Tree of Life, Dimmock, CDC Partners

ACP and Internet Essentials Registration

Tree of Life, Dimmock, Main Streets, CDC Partners

Share Locations and hours of public computer labs and digital device loan programs

Short- Term

Increase Local Capacity

Short- Term

CDC Partners, CBO's

Hire Staff responsible for Digital Access and Equity for Columbus Ave residents

Tree of Life, Tech Goes Home, Timothy Smith, JVS, CDC partners

Further develop digital literacy and career training programs

RCC, YouthBuild, Timothy Smith, CDC Partners

Develop Digital Steward program

Medium- Term

Medium- Term

Increase affordable broadband access:

Short- Term

CDC Partners

Identify, operationalize and circulate best practices for data cabling in new construction and renovation planning

 CDC Partners

Upgrade connection at Holtzer Park and Walker Park

Network service provider, CDC partners, MAPC

Hire managed network service provider to design community wide deployment

Medium- Term

Short- Term

Medium- Term

City of Boston, Boston Housing Authority, CDC Partners, Youthbuild, RCC

Create outdoor and common area public WIFI access using City supplied assets

CDC partners

Expand community broadband network into participating homes

Long- Term

Increase affordable broadband access:

April '22

July '22

Oct '22

Jan '23

April '23

July '23

Oct '23

Digital Access Fellowship/new hire

Further develop digital literacy and technology career training programs

Recruit and begin Digital Steward training program—install WIFI hotspots, Helium routers, conduct adoption and literacy campaigns

Develop best practices for data cabling in new construction and renovation planning

Pilot upgraded connection at Holtzer Park and Walker Park

Hire managed network service provider to design community wide deployment

Deploy network infrastructure

Expand community broadband network into participating homes

Submit proposal for WIFI network funding

Promote existing resources and initiate ACP and Internet Essentials Registration

 Community Network design and deployment

Initiate public WIFI network

 Capacity Building

Stakeholder Engagement Learnings

Devices

Needs

Insights

Digital Literacy for seniors, career (re) training, business owners and ESL learners

Digital tools for businesses

Internet access is needed in order to allow community members to attend school, conduct work, search for jobs, access government assistance, and connect with friends and family

Many of the stakeholders are open to partnership and collaboration between organizations, and a desire to increase their work in helping to close the digital divide. 

Stakeholder organizations identified the incoming state and federal aid as a resource for this work, but are unsure of how to proceed. Collaboration within groups and with the City of Boston is likely necessary in order to qualify for these funds. 

Copy of RFP Info Session

By MAPC

Copy of RFP Info Session

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