connect Winner / 2021
.connectLA: Internet Assistance for LA Households
An internet connection is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity. One that is out of reach for tens of thousands of low-income Angelenos. That is why our team of Internet Assistance Advocates works to connect as many households as possible to affordable broadband solutions by offering unbiased guidance to struggling households as they identify and sign up for low-cost internet plans. Through this program, human-I-T empowers low-income households to access the limitless vital online resources and opportunities from their own homes.
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- County of Los Angeles
What is the problem that you are seeking to address?
In some LA neighborhoods, as many as 62% of households lack an internet connection according to Census data. While in the past, one could survive by using public WiFi at local libraries or fast food restaurants, the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down and eliminated even those public connectivity options. It is becoming the new norm for aspects of everyday life to exist predominantly online - managing finances, attending school, consulting with a physician using telehealth platforms, and working remotely are a few common examples. As a result, in-home broadband has become an even greater imperative than ever before. That is why human-I-T is working hard to connect as many households as possible to affordable internet connectivity solutions, empowering them to access the vital resources and opportunities that exist online in the safety and privacy of their own homes.
Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.
human-I-T’s .connectLA program connects low-income households with high-speed, low-cost internet options starting at $10-25 per month, roughly 70% less costly than the average plan. While Internet Services Providers (ISPs) are required to offer low-cost options, most do little to market these offerings. Research shows that up to 70% of consumers who qualify for these low-cost programs are unaware of their existence. This makes the process of finding an affordable internet plan difficult to navigate for households already experiencing the stress of financial instability. To combat this, our Programs Team conducts rigorous outreach efforts within communities with low internet adoption rates. We form relationships with schools, community-based organizations, and other nonprofits to identify households that could benefit from low-cost broadband options. Through our community partnerships and word of mouth, we’re able to expand our internet assistance program and encourage people without home internet to contact us for assistance at no cost to them. Our team of Internet Assistance Advocates then supports eligible households by educating residents on the various plans that are available to them based on income level, zip code, and other demographic factors. Our Assistance Advocates offer neutral guidance in selecting an internet plan depending on a user’s need via text and phone support in English and Spanish.
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
- Direct impact
- Indirect impact
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
Successful implementation of our program will end digital disenfranchisement for low-income families, helping them break the restraints of generational poverty. Our scalable solution to internet connectivity can easily set off a long-term ripple effect of accessibility to low-cost broadband options, leading to an intergenerational bridging of the digital divide for the over 800,000 LA County residents currently living without an internet connection. By assisting residents to connect, we’re empowering struggling Angelenos to tap into the limitless opportunities for upward social mobility that exist online. In the long term, our program leads to higher graduation rates, better job prospects, and a lower Gini coefficient - i.e. greater economic equality - for Los Angeles. human-I-T hopes to play a key role in the LA2050 community as we strive to make Los Angeles the best place to learn, connect, and live.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
We measure impact by the number of households we assist in signing up for low-cost internet. Since the program’s inception in 2012, we have assisted over 65,700 households. We also regularly send out recipient surveys to gather valuable data about the impact that a digital connection has on peoples’ lives. Some of the impact metrics we gather include: number of recipients that unlocked new job opportunities, number of student recipients that saw an increase in academic performance, and the number of recipients that began managing their finances online. Our team never pressures a household to sign up for a plan before they are fully confident in their decision. This builds community trust and allows our team to provide compassionate service. It also opens access to provide additional support such as digital literacy training and low-cost devices. Even if a household does not sign up for an internet plan through us, we provide community education and support to vulnerable Angelenos.
Which of the connect metrics will you impact?
- Internet access
- Social and emotional support
- Government responsiveness to residents’ needs
Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.
- LA is the best place to LEARN
- LA is the best place to CREATE