Empowerment of low income rental communities includes access to the internet
Net neutrality and
tenant advocacy: more connection than you think
Net neutrality is in the
news this week, but for many of us it's just more blah-blah-blah.
Think again. Net neutrality means that "all traffic on the
Internet will be treated equally."
Renters live in a big
world! Back in the day, decisions about where you lived were made
next door or down the street or across town where your landlord
lived. Now, most landlords are really regional, national or global
corporations. You can't just go talk to a decision maker about the
rent, the elevator, or the house rules. The on site manager is no
longer a decision maker. The manager is just a clerk. Maybe she or
he will pass along a message the bosses...but probably not. There's
a rule of bureaucracies that "bad news doesn't travel uphill."
Instead of getting ugly with the site manager thru a glass window
with a hole in it, internet tools permit you to be a little
thoughtful and compose a written document.
Internet tools like
email, social media and on line petitions can provide a way for you can reach a decision
maker about your concerns about your HOME. Same goes for reaching
any of the housing intermediaries (HUD, USDA, Ohio Housing Finance
Agency). If you happen live nearby, you need to get dressed, drive
over, run thru terrorist screening procedures including standing in
lines, presenting valid ID, wearing a badge and being escorted to
(wait for it) a clerk who will write down your complaint. If the
office is not in your town, you can leave a phone message after
wandering thru an automated answering machine. Email and social
media are the ways that you can deliver your message to a decision
maker...if you can get and pay for the internet access.
(see below) At the simplest level
last week's FCC action CHANGES NOTHING...and that's good. The tech
newsite CNET says "That's the whole point. The Internet has
always operated on this basic principle of openness, or Net
neutrality. The decade long debate over how to implement Net
neutrality has really been a battle to make certain a level of
openness is preserved. And the way to preserve it is by establishing
rules of the road that let ISPs, consumers and innovators know what's
allowed and what's not allowed on the Net." In other words,
it's a start.
http://www.cnet.com/news/7-things-net-neutrality-wont-do/ So where from here?
Four barriers continue to face low income net citizens aka
1. Getting internet
service. Rural areas and inner city neighborhood suffer from
internet redlining. Telecom companies don't want spend money to put
high speed services into communities with a low density of potential
customers. Cleveland's new high speed service is an example where
all the high speed service goes to business and institutions...not
The website Daily Yonder gives more examples of the need to building
rural systems. http://www.dailyyonder.com/topics/broadband-and-tech 2. Paying for the service.
In many states, corporate internet service providers (ISP) have gotten state governments to
block the creation of community-based internet service providers,
thus limiting competition and keeping prices high. While the FCC was
adopting a net neutrality policy this past week, it also challenged
such state restrictions. http://tinyurl.com/kvwgq69
This will promote competition from community based services that can
deliver lower prices for consumers.
What if property owners
used their buying power to purchase bulk cable services that included
internet access passed along the savings along to their tenants.
There were some experiments in the 1990's but by beginning of the new
century landlords had shifted to systems that resold the wholesale
services at retail rates and pocketted the profits.
Finally, until the
internet arrives in your community at a reasonable price, there's
always Mickey D's; coffee shops and other businesses, and public
library hotspots where a person with a mobile device (laptop, tablet,
smart phone) can get internet access. Often not very fast
connections, but usually enough to send and receive email...but be
careful about sending private info from public wi fi sites.)
3. The third barrier to
access is hardware cost. However, computers are coming down in
price. This past year, the best selling laptops are Chromebooks
(from a variety of manufacturers) which start around $300. Smart
phones and tablets are available for around the same price. For many
households, even that's a stretch, Creating a community computer
center at your community room is another option and expanding access
to computers at libraries and social agencies is could be goals for
tenant leaders, advocates and inclusion planners. 4. Finally there's the
barrier of knowledge. How can advocates help advocates to learn to
use the internet tools. As with access to hardware, access to
knowledge could be an advocacy goal for leaders and advocates in
coming years. Just having access to the internet does not teach
folks how to avoid internet scams and how to distinguish between
clickbait and real news. Tim Marena, editor at
the Daily Yonder reminds us: "Community network enthusiasts
will consider the FCC’s vote Thursday a victory for underserved
communities, wherever they may be. The matter will likely head to the
courts before resolution."
). Rental advocates need to keep in mind that this first step
towards preserving net neutrality was won because of internet
advocates flooded the FCC with email messages and took to the
streets, where ever they lived, to make their voices heard. Its time
for tenant advocates to work on removing the other barriers to making
renters into netizens.
1. Support households use of internet resources by providing valuable links and encouraging basic skill development. 2.
Seek funding from local foundations and/or housing providers to offset
the costs of purchasing hardware (laptops, tablets and smart phones.)
RHINO tenants and advocates
Work to create access at home by setting up in building free/low cost
wifi services, community computer centers or low cost bulk cable
programs. 2. Offer internet skill building as a part of your
meetings and events. Invite reps from local computer clubs, public
libraries and other educational programs to give presentations.
Investigate and implement low cost municipal internet services,
especially in low income neighborhoods and rural communities. 2. Sponsor programs to assist low income families to purchase hardware at a discounted cost.
All RHINO members
on line content that draws low income and rental households to the
internet. On line search tools; newsy and interactive facebook pages