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First Subsidized Housing, Then Subsidized Internet Service

The Arlington Sun Gazette reported today that "(r)esidents of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing’s Arlington Mill Residences would receive free wireless Internet courtesy the Arlington taxpayers, under a proposal slated for County Board consideration on Dec. 16."

Here are the details, according to the Sun Gazette:

"County staff are asking for authorization to spend $95,400 in funds to provide free Internet service to the 122 committed-affordable units in the complex, located just north of Columbia Pike.

“For many of these low-income households, who make on average $40,000 before tax, the $45-$75 per month cost for a good high-speed Internet connection is unaffordable,” said Nina Janopaul, president and CEO of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.

"The entire effort will cost about $140,000, with the remainder coming from outside contributions. Funding will support a pilot program that might expand to other low-income communities across the county."

The item is scheduled to be on the Arlington County Board's so-called consent agenda on Saturday, December 16, 2017 (Consent Agenda Item 18). Following is the 'summary' from the County Manager's 14-page report to the County Board:

A new initiative, Arlington Digital Inclusion, supported by the Department of Technology Services (DTS) and Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development (CPHD), will leverage the County’s existing dark fiber assets (ConnectArlington) to provide free broadband internet connectivity to tenants of the Arlington Mill Residences for a period of three years. Currently, there are 122 committed affordable units (CAFs) at Arlington Mill Residences and 159 children are currently residing at the development. About half of all households (61) do not currently subscribe to an Internet/data service. This program would provide free, in-unit high-speed Wi-Fi access to every unit. It would also help alleviate the cost of Internet/data service (which can range from $50-$75/month) for those households currently paying for the service. This initiative is the result of the collaboration between DTS, CPHD, APAH, and other partners to be selected by APAH.

In addition, the Manager provides the following 'fiscal impact' statement in his report:

"The allocation of $95,400 to APAH will be fully funded by the FY 2019 Columbia Pike TIF base budget. In addition, APS will realize some savings. APS currently has a program called MiFi which provides personal devices and associated wireless service to students who would not otherwise have access, and therefore could not utilize digital learning resources. This initiative will eliminate the need for APS MiFi to provide such personal devices and associated wireless services to students residing at Arlington Mills Residence, saving APS on average $100 per device and $16.95 per month for service fees, as well as ensuring both students and other residents have access to higher bandwidth service."

Ah, the generosity of the County Board, the County Manager, and county staff? I venture they would be nowhere near as generous if that $95,000 was coming out of their payroll benefits.

Growls readers concerned about the fiscal soundness of so-called subsidized housing are encouraged to engage the Arlington County Board. Take a couple of minutes to make your views known to the Board. Remember, construction doesn't start until next summer. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

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