By Adam Swift
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the City of Revere, and the Revere Housing Authority (RHA) celebrated the launch of the first “Apartment Wi-Fi” program to increase access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet for residents of Greater Boston.
The organizations worked together to procure, contract, and implement a solution that provides internet access to all residents in the 148 – 172 Pomona Street and 10 – 96 Rose Street properties – 100 units of all family-style housing. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) has provided all funding for the program.
“Today, we are very grateful to take advantage of the opportunity presented to us, an opportunity to bridge the digital divide for our residents,” said Revere Housing Authority Executive Director Dean Harris at an event at the Rose and Pomona streets properties last week. “We have worked closely with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, MAPC, and the city of Revere for nearly two years to make this project a reality. We know it will have a significant impact on our residents’ lives.”
Harris said the Wi-Fi project is just one of the collaborative projects the housing authority has undertaken recently to better the lives of its residents, including the planting of trees in conjunction with the DCR and the installation of new sidewalks and curbs with the help of the city.
The executive director noted that residents in the housing authority properties can spend the equivalent of one month’s earnings on internet costs over the course of a year.
“Today’s families need to be connected,” Harris said. “To be connected to the internet is to be connected to opportunities, it creates access to education, access to jobs, access to better healthcare, and it creates access to a better life.”
Acting Mayor Patrick Keefe noted that digital equity brings together a number of needs for the community.
“We saw this during the pandemic,” said Keefe. “Students were going to McDonald’s parking lots to get digital access, to get onto the internet. Families had no way to reach out to find jobs, to find food security, to find education, to find the things they needed in everyday life.”
State Representative Jessica Giannino said internet, phone, and other utility costs can quickly use up a large share of the income of single parents, seniors, and others on fixed incomes.
“We’ve relied on technology so much over the last several years that it’s something that I think many of us take for granted,” said Giannino. “For our seniors, some of them have to choose between cable and groceries. This might just be WiFi, but it gives them options for streaming services; instead of paying $130 for cable, they can pay $12 for Netflix and watch television.”
Giannino said the dependable Wi-Fi service also gives people the ability to Zoom and video call people who live outside the country and other loved ones.
“I’m really excited about this,” said Giannino. “Revere is the start of so many great things in Massachusetts, and it’s really a privilege to represent this community because we get to see so many breakthrough programs happen.”
Josh Eichen of the MBI said that thanks to the work with Revere, the housing authority, MAPC, and other stakeholders, the state is now providing technical assistance to any municipality that is interested to apply for funds to conduct similar planning processes.
“It was through that planning process that in Revere, the residents and community leadership identified public housing and other kinds of affordable housing as priority locations for investment activities to address the digital divide,” said Eichen.
Revere High sophomore Camila Marcus-Perez said the program will ensure that students have access to reliable internet connections for school work, as well as increased opportunities for their parents. In addition to the free Wi-Fi, residents of Rose and Pomona will also have access to a 24/7 help desk for troubleshooting any connectivity issues.