One Economy weaving broadband into low-income housing

In large metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco, low-income housing and broadband access have become intertwined thanks to efforts by One Economy, a global nonprofit organization delivering broadband to low-income people.

Certainly low-income housing gives families the stability they need to help them get back on their feet, but it's becoming increasingly evident that, when combined with free broadband access and computer training, people have an even greater opportunity to turn their lives around, said Alan Greenlee, vice president of One Economy.

"Our mission is really about connecting people to information," said Greenlee. "There is the assumption that people are online and people have computers and the capacity to use those computers--not all of that is in place."

Sure, it's possible to head to the local library to get online, at least for a short time. But Greenlee said the real impact of broadband comes from connecting people in the home. It's difficult to fill out an application or lay out a business plan at a public computer that other people are waiting to use, and home connectivity is often the difference in someone finding a job or getting the money they need to go to college.

One Economy, born out of the affordable housing and community development world, understands well how money is funneled down at the local level into affordable housing projects. As such, it has been able to successfully work at a local level to bring in the necessary funds to give housing projects free broadband access and the training to make people proficient computer users.

Through the National Equity Fund, it is offering a resource to pay for computers, training and years of Internet access for new affordable housing developments. In partnership with AT&T, it is providing two free years of Internet access to 50,000 low-income Americans by 2010. And through the California Emerging Technology Fund, One Economy will connect more than 30,000 low-income California residents within the next three years.

In California, One Economy has successfully encouraged the state to include funding language that incents affordable housing companies to include Internet access into new buildings. As a result of that policy, some 17,000 units now have free or affordable broadband Internet access...Continued

Next page