Digital Access Plan

Columbus Ave Corridor

Stakeholder Interview Summaries   12/10/2021

Prepared for Urban Edge by the

Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Contents

Executive Summary

Stakeholder Questions/Concerns

Stakeholder Profiles

Executive Summary

Process

Digital Equity Needs

Stakeholder Insights

Asset Mapping

Focus Groups

Individual Conversations

Process

Sample Questions:

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, Roxbury Community College (RCC), Director of Workforce Development

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

Nessie Ruiz, Tech Goes Home

Milton Erving and Allessandra Brown, Timothy Smith Network

Scott Hagerty, InSource

Denise Delgado, Egleston Square Main Streets (email correspondence)

Urban Edge residents and community leaders

 

 

Urban Edge Staff

 

 

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

What barriers do you see for your neighbors in getting online?

 

What opportunities might be created if there was improved ability to get online?

 

How are you thinking about the Digital Divide, and how it fits into your mission and programming?

 

Please identify the network of partners in the area, and the physical, operational and organizational assets they might bring to the project.  

Commonly identified needs

Digital Equity Needs

Connection, literacy and devices must work together. Even with the existence of an internet connection, residents need support in strengthening literacy skills and accessing devices.  Language barriers limit the effectiveness of digital equity efforts.

Stakeholders highlighted the need for internet access in order to allow community members to attend school, conduct work, search for jobs, access government assistance, and connect with friends and family. The need is even greater amongst the marginalized communities stakeholders serve.

There are a limited number of existing digital access programs (mostly run by TGH), and a strong desire was expressed for these programs, either by residents or by organizations who believe increased digital literacy will improve their own services. Stakeholders highlighted the digital literacy needs of seniors, career (re)training, business owners and ESL learners.

Businesses should better take advantage of online tools and be "document ready"

Devices

Consistent Themes

Stakeholder Insights

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. 

Existing Programs

Stakeholder Insights

Tech Goes Home has created a fee for service program where they used to not charge partners. Urban Edge is piloting a program for youth and seniors with Tech Goes Home, and JVS has a partnership with them as well. 

InSource is Urban Edge's IT consultant. In addition to Urban Edge offices, InSource manages the in-building network (wiring installed during its renovation) at Walnut Park and soon to be completed Holtzer park. Currently these netowrks offer minimal bandwidth to users but that can be easily increased. 

Three Squares is working with JPNDC to aid businesses to become document ready. Work between Three Squares and RCC and BFIT is ongoing. 

RCC has a Timothy Smith Network Space (computer lab) 

Opportunities

Stakeholder Insights

At the Mildred Hailey site with JPNDC and UE, they want to add a business center and bring Wi-Fi to the community center during the renovation, setting a new benchmark for connectivity with the Mildred Hailey redevelopment

Free internet in public parks

Internet in unit

Working with Amazon for funding in Roxbury where they have a large giving budget

Dimmock HR program could focus on more digital offering

Digital Literacy for Latinos

Tech Goes Home considering becoming an ISP

(Affordable Housing) If you have significant reserves and you can talk to the lender about it to authorize it, you may be able to use the reserves, and solve for the operating expense. All properties have operating reserves, required by lenders in the state. Each has different requirements. It is an eligible use for the operation of the building (from the reserves), but installation is a grey area, as it is not exactly a replacement, but that is often up to the funder that holds the replacement reserve. 

One org is a funnel to programs feeding to one org doing digital literacy feeding to one org doing career training

A public free network may be able to be supported by the City of Boston

Asset Mapping

Infrastructure Digital Literacy Workforce Dev Community Ties Device access
Urban Edge X X X
JVS X X X
City of Boston X
Tree of Life X
JPNDC X X X
TNB X
Winn X
InSource
RCC X X X X
Timothy Smith X X X X X
Three Squares Main Streets X X
Egleston Square Main Streets X X
Dimmock X X
Tech Goes Home X X

Stakeholder Profiles

Constituants

Need

Assets

Growth

Urban Edge

Stakeholder Profiles

Urban Edge sees themselves as a possible conduit for workforce development. They have the capacity to facilitate connections, but not the training or job placement programs in-house. UE hopes to rely on community partnerships and leverage their connection to their residents within their portfolio.  

Constituents Need

Assets

Growth 

Senior and Family households within UE's affordable housing portfolio  and their neighbors Improved access to the Internet
Workforce Development
Digital Literacy

Properties within Roxbury and JP
Existing programs administration
Existing relationships

Creating connections to workforce development programs and increasing broadband access

Affordable Housing Group

Stakeholder Profiles

​​After meeting with affordable housing stakeholders, it is clear that many older properties in CDC portfolios lack internal infrastructure to support newer internet service delivery technologies. Alternatively, many new developments involve free internet for residents, as apartments in those buildings were prewired to a central location during construction, creating easier processes for ISP’s to bring service to residents. Developers mentioned that per-unit cost often dictates how services are provisioned, prohibiting some work in smaller, older buildings. The CDC’s discussed the potential to utilize building reserve funds to support internet connectivity within their buildings. In conversation with InSource, the IT Service provider for Urban Edge, it was revealed that new buildings in Urban Edge’s portfolio had internal wiring that could be used for high speed Internet access in each unit.

Constituents Need Assets

Growth 

Residents within Roxbury and JP Funding to support services within buildings
Infrastructure to support services
Properties within Roxbury and JP
Relationships with residents
Utilizing building reserve funds
New construction

Resident Focus Group

Stakeholder Profiles

Approximately 8 Roxbury residents attended a virtual focus group alongside UE and MAPC staff. Many of the attendees are resident leaders within their apartment complex, for the most part older adults. The most commonly cited neighborhood concerns were safety, the lack of resources and opportunities, and supporting the elderly to age in place. Many were unsatisfied with the Internet access in their homes and were unfamiliar with ISP offerings and technology support programs. Digital literacy programs appealed to many, as did a public WIFI network—as long as it was the work of a trusted local organization. Residents identified Urban Edge and Union Capital Boston as those trusted entities.

Constituents Need

Assets

Growth 
Neighborhood residents Safety
Improved communication of services
Improved Internet access
Digital Literacy
Protection against gentrification
Resident leadership
Community connections
Resident empowerment
Digital Literacy

JVS-Jewish Vocational Services

Stakeholder Profiles

JVS has recently created a universal intake and would like to do warm referrals with community partners. They themselves have recently become much easier to partner with logistically. If JVS has a value add of skills training and computer literacy, this leaves open the role for someone to provide the ability for folks to get online and get access.  

JVS was pursuing device access, but then pivoted to literacy as people with access to devices often had trouble using them. JVS also developed a Digital Navigator program. They are looking into centralized literacy classes in partnership with TGH. 

Constituents

Need

Assets

Growth 

Potential workers seeking further education, workforce skills or social supports. This includes immigrants, refugees, the disabled and others hoping to improve their career prospects

Jobs and career advancement
Digital Literacy

Workforce development and digital literacy programs
Existing programs administration
Existing relationships

Digital literacy/essential skills for the workplace
Universal intake and collaborative referral system with community partners

Three Squares Main Street 

Three Squares Main Street JP focuses on economic development and business support. The organization seeks to become part of the larger community and move beyond focusing just on businesses by adding effort on community organizing for entrepreneurship and employment. They hope to build capacity in the community through economic development, workforce development, youth services, or programs for seniors. Three Squares would love to be a leading player in this work, and they see their role as helping build capacity to help business thrive. Warren Williams, the Executive Director of Three Squares, previously worked for Urban Edge, and is a well-known and respected community leader.  

Three Squares Main Street often supports businesses with language barriers, affordability, accounting needs, and more when property owners and businesses are stretched too thin. They are also expanding beyond only working with businesses. 

 

Stakeholder Profiles

Constituents

Need

Assets

Growth 

Business owners and residents of the Columbus Ave corridor

Digital literacy for online and digital business resources

Relationships with businesses (and residents)
Business owners (and their real estate)

Expanding beyond business support into community organizing

Egleston Main Street 

Stakeholder Profiles

Constituents

Need

Assets

Growth 

Business owners on Columbus Ave

Digital Literacy for business

Real estate
Business community connection

Egleston Main Streets shared their thoughts via email:  "Based on our experience and observations, some of our businesses really need support to not just learn, but implement the online/technology skills and tools they need to successfully operate a business in 2021, remain viable and accessible to a broader market as the neighborhood becomes more and more gentrified, and for basic financial/loan/grant readiness."

 

 

Mike Lynch, City of Boston

 

Stakeholder Profiles

Constituents

Need

Assets

Growth 

Residents and businesses of Boston

Affordable, ubiquitous broadband access

City real estate
Municipal fiber
Financing

Expanding public WIFI
 

Joined by Peter Favorito, Digital Equity Advisor. The City of Boston was happy to hear of our “on the ground” work, and proposed “anchor institutions”: BNN, BHA, RCC, Urban Edge, City of Boston. Municipal assets may be able to be activated as long as the resulting network is free to users. The Boston Housing Authority should be included in all discussions, especially as it relates to their existing infrastructure in the area. Private benefits with public dollars requires RFP

 

InSource 

InSource is the IT support consultant hired by Urban Edge. InSource does not build large area Wi-Fi networks, but they have or are in the process of installing and managing the technology (firewalls and switches, cabling) for in-building networks. InSource serves as a break and fix support, including the network that was installed in Walker Park. They do not support end users, but they can support the training of an end user support team for Wi-Fi or another network. They expressed interest in supporting small scale (individual building) wired or wireless networks. InSource has interviewed Just-A-Start program graduates and offered them internships. 

 

Stakeholder Profiles

Constituents

Need

Assets

Growth 

IT Clients 

IT services

Technical expertise

managing in building networks
Internships, training

Dimmock  

Dimmock offers additional services beyond healthcare clinic, including transitional housing, a detox center, family shelter, domestic abuse shelter (not in area), preschool/daycare, and a behavioral health center. They have 9 buildings, and work with nonprofits in the area. Dr Anderson, Director of Dimmock Health Center, has expressed interest in this work, but needs to be brought into the conversation.  

 

Stakeholder Profiles

Constituents

Need

Assets

Growth 

Health care recipients
Elderly
Individuals and families in transitional housing

Digital Literacy (esp. related to healthcare)
Online access
Affordable devices
 

Real Estate on Columbus Ave
Community outreach

Connecting digital equity with healthcare outcomes

Tree of Life 

Tree of Life sees themselves as a possible candidate for running or supporting digital literacy training. They believe that training is necessary and will work, but they hope that these services are not simply parachuted in, and instead are blessed by long-standing community groups (such as their organization or Urban Edge). Carol Miranda, Director of Tree of Life, has longstanding relationships within the Mildred Hailey community.  

 

Stakeholder Profiles

Constituents

Need

Assets

Growth 

Residents of Mildred Hailey

Digital literacy
Resource communication

Community connection
 

Voice in Mildred Hailey redevelopment

Timothy Smith Network 

Timothy Smith Network is eager to partner and collaborate to create program but also to pursue ARPA funding and other funding sources. TSN currently builds programs and computer labs around Boston. They also focus on building pathways (internships mostly) to careers. They are looking for a soft skills partner.  

Stakeholder Profiles

Constituents

Need

Assets

Growth 

Boston residents, youth focused

Quality tech training programs

Computer Labs
Program administration
Technical knowledge

More infrastucture (lab)
More programming

Roxbury Community College, Center for Workforce Development 

Roxbury Community College’s Center for Workforce Development is also in need of a soft skills partner. They are aware that digital literacy is a prerequisite to many of their programs, but they do not feel that it is their responsibility to take on. However, they are willing to provide space and devices for community groups. Part of their programming includes continuing education courses.  

Stakeholder Profiles

Constituents

Need

Assets

Growth 

Continuing education students

Digital literacy
Soft skills

Real Estate
Computer labs
Technical expertise
Program administration

Provide campus resources to the community

Tech Goes Home 

TGH is speaking with Comcast to support customers, especially seniors, with connecting their devices to the new service before leaving installation. Currently, TGH provides one year of service, and tends to provide Wi-Fi hotspots instead of ISP subscriptions. Overall, TGH’s goal is more participants and more basic training. They are considering a TGH 2.0 program, which goes deeper into tech training for careers. 

Stakeholder Profiles

Constituents

Need

Assets

Growth 

Elderly and families

Digital Literacy

Program administration
Device distribution
Curriculum

Further technical training

Boston Neighborhood Network

Glenn Williams, General Manager of BNN at Egleston Square, described BNN's efforts to support families with their tech needs during COVID. BNN sees its role as a central communicator of resources and stories related to digital equity. This can include producing or sharing PSA's and other informative programming, storytelling about the work combating the digital divide, and providing space for classes and discussion of digital literacy efforts.

Stakeholder Profiles

Constituents Need

Assets

Growth 

Boston residents Learning and understanding device, access and educational resources available to them Computer Lab
Audience
Landmark building in Egleston Square

Stakeholder Questions/Concerns

If we (UE) want to go in the direction of putting access within homes, and it is only offered to residents in income restricted properties, how does this affect the service? 

 

Gray area is offering targeted services to some but not others, is there a potential fair housing issue? 

 

In order to have individual coaching overall, there would have to be a co-grant writing process and fundraising together with resources (JVS)  

 

Housing developers have not been in this space of supporting public Wi-Fi or being the provider, is there a concern that they will open something to the public that could technically shut down their system? 

 

Who are good program partners to bring in to provide services to residents? 

 

Stakeholder Questions/Concerns

 

How do you staff back of the house IT? Do you need a third party? 

 

Can we provide internet for units as part of an operating cost for a unit (UE has looked into this, with cost going to the owner, not the tenant (JPNDC)). 

 

How do you do something when you are developing, refinancing, renovating vs. how do you do something when the building is under operation. 

 

If the lender agrees it is important, do they help by adjusting the requirements of the loan? If you're trying to create more of a web like net, at what scale does that become a replicable model where the cost per unit goes down? 

 

Can we get usage data, and how might we use it, coupled with community engagement? 

 

UE training program team installing inbuilding wiring, offer user support? 

 

What does the rollout of internet look like? How does it work? How are we going to train folks to maximize the internet? 

Previously identified:

  • Library

  • Union Capital Boston

  • Brookline Housing Authority "Tech Buddies" program

  • Ben Franklin Institute of Technology

  • Boston Public Schools

  • Boston Housing Authority

Other Stakeholders (TBD)

New:

  • Possible Project 

  • Lenders such as MassHousing 

  • Egleston Library  

  • YouthBuild 

  • Family Resource Center 

Stakeholder Interviews

By MAPC

Stakeholder Interviews

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