San Francisco "Fiber to Housing" program provides internet for low-income families

Department of Technology receives award for program that has provided 1,500 low income families in San Francisco with free, high-speed internet.
August 23, 2019

Mayor London N. Breed, along with City Administrator Naomi M. Kelly, today announced the San Francisco Department of Technology’s Fiber to Housing program has received national recognition for its service to low-income San Franciscans. The program has provided 1,500 low‑income families with access to free, high-speed internet, and will serve an additional 1,600 families over the next year.

The program, called “Closing the Digital Divide – Fiber to Housing,” is a collaboration between the Department of Technology, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, and the local Internet Service Provider, Monkeybrains. The program works to eliminate the digital divide in San Francisco by bringing free high-speed internet to residents living in affordable housing.

“Providing low-income families with access to high-speed internet is about equity, and ensuring every family in our City has access to the resources they need to pay their bills, connect with City services, or do their homework,” said Mayor Breed. “We believe that every person deserves an opportunity to thrive, and the Department of Technology’s Fiber to Housing program helps achieve that goal by closing the digital divide and providing fast and reliable internet access.”

“I am proud of the City agencies and their collaborative work to bringing quality internet access for public housing residents,” said City Administrator Kelly. “As we continue to build public housing units and our infrastructure, we must also look at our digital infrastructure through an equitable lens.”

The City’s Department of Technology was recognized with a 2019 CIO 100 Award for its work on the Fiber to Housing project. The CIO 100 Awards honor organizations around the world that exemplify the highest level of operational and strategic excellence in information technology. Previous winners of the CIO 100 award have included major corporations such as Amazon and The Walt Disney Company.

“It’s truly an honor to receive this recognition for our Fiber to Housing project,” said City Chief Information Officer and Executive Director of the Department of Technology Linda Gerull. “Bridging the divides in internet access and digital literacy is crucial to achieving San Francisco’s goal of digital equity, and I’m thrilled to accept this award on behalf of the City family.”

“MOHCD is committed to narrowing the digital divide our city faces and will continue to advance equitable internet access in our affordable housing developments,” said Acting Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development Dan Adams. “This citywide initiative is crucial to ensuring low-income residents have the technology they need to succeed in today’s world.”

Access to technology has become increasingly important for accessing opportunity, but the digital divide still exists in San Francisco. About one in eight residents lack high-speed home Internet service, one in seven families in public school lack a computer connected to the Internet at home, and one in seven residents lack basic digital literacy such as the ability to send email or use a search engine. In particular, many who are low-income, limited English proficient, senior, and/or have a disability struggle to access reliable high-quality service.

The Fiber to Housing program started in 2018 and provides free, high-speed internet to low-income residents by leveraging existing municipal fiber resources, staff expertise, and private sector partnerships. In the first phase of the project, City staff connected over 1,500 low-income families with long-term sustainable internet access—at no cost to users. The project’s second phase is currently underway and will provide internet to another 1,600 units by June 2020. The completed project will result in a service benefit of approximately $400 million over 20 years.