Internet users at a coffee shop
Internet users at a coffee shop. Photo via Pixabay

A grant from the Federal Communications Commission will help the San Diego Housing Commission expand broadband service to low-income households, it was announced Thursday.

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks visited San Diego Thursday to announce the grant, of more than $230,000, which is intended to support outreach efforts to get households to apply for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program.

The program provides eligible households with a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service and a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price, a FCC statement reads.

Leaders hope to reach 120,000 eligible households in San Diego. That number includes more than 17,000 families that receive federal rental assistance and about 137,000 households on the waiting list for aid.

Additional city households with low incomes are also eligible, according to a commission statement.

According to a San Diego Association of Governments analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the City Heights (16%), San Ysidro (17%) and Barrio Logan/Logan Heights (21%) areas have high concentrations of households with that do not have broadband subscriptions.

The analysis also found that 17% of seniors age 65 and older in the San Diego region do not have a computer or broadband access.

In addition, around 453,000 households countywide are eligible for the federal connectivity program, according to the SANDAG report, but only around 130,000 – or 28% – are enrolled.

San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera called internet access a human right, comparing it to housing, which the council unanimously declared a human right in January.

“The COVID-19 pandemic made clear the critical role an internet connection plays in our lives, he said. “The internet allowed many of us to stay connected with family, friends, and work. Yet others weren’t as fortunate. I find this to be unacceptable and untenable, especially since the internet was born in California.”

The new grant will go to support the housing commission’s ongoing Digital Inclusion Project to help address the divide between households with access to technology and those without it.

“The FCC’s grant along with collaboration among many organizations will help to bridge the digital divide,” said the commission’s interim President and CEO Jeff Davis.

Starks, of the FCC, said his ‘Your Home, Your Internet’ pilot program will help residents find affordable, quality and reliable links to the internet.

“This grant will help ensure that eligible low-income households in San Diego are not left behind in the digital age and have access to all the benefits that a broadband connection can bring,” he said.

– City News Service