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Jersey City Helps Close Digital Divide, Provide High-Speed Internet to Neediest Residents

By rlsmetro on
Jersey City

Mayor Steven M. Fulop joins the Jersey City Housing Authority (JCHA) to announce the City's latest initiative to expand broadband internet access throughout public housing developments by providing deeply discounted high-speed internet infrastructure and services in partnership with Andrena, a New Jersey-based internet services provider. 

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

JCHA put out a public bid for broadband infrastructure and high-speed, low-cost internet services earlier last year and contracted with Andrena to wire four JCHA public housing developments. 

During the same time, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) began providing Wi-Fi subsidies nationally to eligible households, including residents of public housing. 

Via the contract with JCHA, Andrena will provide JCHA residents with major 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 surge during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, work, and educate, and it has put an urgency on the need to close the digital divide," Mayor Fulop said. 

"That's why we're investing in the necessary infrastructure within our public housing developments so that our neediest families are afforded equitable opportunities in education, employment, and beyond."

The expansion of affordable high-speed internet opportunities at JCHA properties began with a highly successful implementation in Jersey City's Berry Gardens senior citizen public housing community, where over 350 units were connected to faster and more reliable internet. 

JCHA and Andrena team members hosted weekly community events where they assisted Berry Gardens residents in signing up for internet service, connecting devices, and obtaining internet subsidies as a part of the FCC's subsidy programs.

"So far, the service is amazing, and the seniors in Berry Gardens appreciate the low cost if not free internet through Andrena and the FCC's program," Eleanor Mixson, Resident Council President at Berry Gardens, said.

In an effort to maximize opportunities for low-income residents under the EBB and ACP programs, the City launched an aggressive public outreach campaign to educate our neediest residents on all available resources. 

The EBB was a temporary initiative created by Congress as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 to subsidize broadband access during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The program functions as an internet coupon, providing a monthly subsidy of up to $50 toward internet service for eligible households. 

Late last year, the FCC announced that as of December 31, 2021, the EBB would transition to a long-term program called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), with $14 billion in funding. 

All JCHA and low-income residents throughout Jersey City can apply for monthly internet subsidies of up to $30 through the ACP. 

JCHA and Jersey City have been broadly promoted these subsidies since June 2021.

Andrena Internet offers two month-to-month packages 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 citywide can apply online for internet service subsidies through the ACP program. 

Anyone who lives in federally-subsidized housing is guaranteed ACP eligibility. And like the EBB, the ACP will fully cover the cost of Andrena's first-tier broadband package for JCHA residents.

"We operate in communities all over New Jersey, and it's clear that the Digital Divide is a very real problem," Neil Chatterjee, Co-Founder & CEO of Andrena, said. 

"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're honored to help them achieve this vision for their residents."

George Bell, who lives in the JCHA Berry Gardens Apartments, signed up for the new internet service for 20 dollars a month. "It was easy to sign up for and is a good savings to what I was paying before." He uses it on his phone and tablet both. 

In addition to discounted internet services, the EBB and ACP programs provide a one-time device discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider. 

The one-time discount requires a consumer co-payment of more than $10 and less than $50.

Per federal guidelines, households qualify for the ACP program if at least one member qualifies for Medicaid or SNAP benefits; receives free or reduced school lunch; is a PELL grant recipient, or the household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty limit.  

For more information on ACP eligibility, please visit the ACP website here.