Don't Charge for Internet Services
As the pandemic continues, Internet connectivity for information and services has become increasingly important. From virtual doctor’ visits to virtual learning as schools delay openings, these critical services have underscored the importance of Internet connectivity during this time. But, despite progress in expanding Internet connectivity in the U.S., a report from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) finds that approximately 21.3 million Americans live in “digital deserts” and still lack access to fixed broadband service at threshold speed.
Despite a higher percentage of low-income students not having Internet access at home, HUD has confirmed that Internet services are not an allowable expense for sites receiving HUD project-based rental assistance. Just as telephone service may not be included in tenant rent charges or utility allowances for sites receiving project-based rental assistance, broadband or Internet fees aren’t allowed as well.
However, HUD is encouraging owners to make their sites Internet-ready through participation in the Neighborhood Networks program. The Neighborhood Networks Initiative was created in 1995 as a community-based initiative at HUD. It encourages the development of resource and computer centers in privately owned HUD-assisted and/or -insured housing. More information on the program can be found at www.hud.gov/program_offices/public_indian_housing/programs/ph/nnw/nnwaboutnn.
HUD also stated that low-income tenants may be eligible for low-cost Internet services with their local Internet service providers or by visiting www.connecthomeusa.org and www.everyoneon.org. ConnectHome is a program that was launched in 2015 to narrow the digital divide for K-12 families living in public housing. And EveryoneOn is a nonprofit dedicated to creating social and economic opportunity by connecting low-income families to affordable Internet service and computers.