In 2016, Spot On Networks was awarded the bid to build the largest affordable housing wireless network at Queensbridge Houses in Queens, New York.  The project was a massive success allowing residents to have access to secure and reliable wireless voice and data throughout the entirety of Queensbridge Houses.  Since NYC’s demonstration project in providing access to wireless broadband, Spot On has been at the forefront of providing secure, property-wide wireless data and voice services throughout entire affordable housing communities.  These wireless services have ensured that residents of affordable housing complexes have the wireless broadband access necessary to work, attend school, receive health care and stay connected to family and friends.  

Author: Dick Sherwin, Member Wireless Hall of Fame

Affordable housing developments are increasingly leaning toward high speed broadband services reflecting changing life styles of the population. These developments need to offer facilities to  bridge the digital divide. In a rule established by the United States Department of Housing and  Urban Development (“HUD”) effective on January 19, 2017, certain subsidies have become  available:  

“Through this proposed rule, HUD continues its efforts to narrow the digital divide in low-income communities served by HUD by providing, where feasible and with HUD funding,  broadband access to communities in need of such access. Broadband is the common term used to  refer to a very fast connection to the Internet. Such connection is also referred to as high-speed  broadband or high-speed Internet. In this rule, HUD proposes to require installation of  broadband infrastructure at the time of new construction or substantial rehabilitation of  multifamily rental housing that is funded by HUD………….. Installing unit-based high-speed  Internet in multifamily rental housing that is newly constructed and substantially rehabilitated  with HUD funding will not only expand affordable housing for low-income families but will  provide a platform for individuals and families residing in such housing to participate in the  digital economy, and increase their access to economic opportunities.”   

Many housing authorities want to provide a series of services to their residents, including health  services, employment services, directions, etc. that can be easily done via a portal to on line  housing authority services. To provide such services, broadband to the residents is required.

Broadband has become a utility, much like water, heat and air conditioning. Wireless  broadband, specifically WiFi has become a necessity for residential, retail and entertainment  facilities and is now becoming a necessity for affordable housing as well. There are several  reasons for these occurrences: 

 1. Mobile data traffic (wireless) grew 74 percent in 2016 and is projected to increase  eightfold by 2020.

2. Average smartphone usage grew 43% in 2015 and more than 50% of all traffic from  mobile connected devices will be handled by WiFi or femtocells. 

3. According to an analysis by the Center for Economic Opportunity, 22 percent of New York City households do not have internet service at home and 36 percent of households below the poverty line do not have internet access at home. Recent data on smartphone use by the Pew Research Center shows that one in five American adults rely on smartphones as their primary source for Internet access. According to Pew, half of all people with no or limited home Internet have had to cancel or suspend their phone service because of financial constraints.

Affordable multitenant developments will benefit from the use of high speed WiFi internet and  data access in a number of important ways. “Bridging the Digital Divide” has become a  euphemism for broadband deployment in low income housing. But high speed wireless  communications has become so important in the daily lives of affordable housing residents for a  host of reasons. 

Providing broadband access to these residents promotes completion of homework to school age  children, makes finding jobs easier for those looking for them, offers easy access to various city  services including health services and other municipal services and lastly provides an additional  level of safety via notifications. 

A Network as a Service (“NaaS”) that provides very secure, consistent connectivity, with  seamless connection throughout the development will offer the quality of experience required.  High speed backhaul connected to a WiFi NaaS provides residents with the capacity and speeds  needed for education, viewing of services, economical video streaming and communications. 

Spot On Networks’ NaaS utilizes patented technology to provide secure wireless services with  seamless connectivity throughout a residential development. The NaaS requires high capacity  within buildings and extremely high speed backhaul bandwidth to the mixed use development.  Using a network of various elements, including wireless access points with gigabit speeds and  video streaming capability, combined with the incorporation of Gigabit Ethernet to the  development, Spot On Networks is one of a very small number of companies that has  implemented such high capacity, high quality services. It’s latest project, in conjunction with the New York City Mayor’s Office, New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”) and the  Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (“DoITT”) offers high speed  wireless service to all 7,000 residents of the NYCHA Queensbridge complex, the largest of its  kind, so that they are able to receive consistent, high quality access to the internet and various  other services. Reaction to the broadband implementation at Queensbridge has been universal. 

“NYCHA’s vision for the families who live in our communities is one that is safe, clean and connected. Our residents, who include more than 100,000 children, have lacked access to the benefits that the wireless broadband Internet provides,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye.

 “I’m thrilled that new broadband services are being delivered to Queensbridge houses,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney. “Broadband is needed for everything from completing homework to searching for a job to starting and running a small business.” 

“The Mayor’s initiative to bring free wireless high-capacity Internet access to public housing units in New York City marks a crucial step towards addressing one of the most important social justice issues of our time. Without a persistent data connection, you cannot thrive in the 21st century; with one, you are on your way towards achieving the dignity and autonomy every human being deserves,” said Susan Crawford, Professor at Harvard Law School. 

“The Mayor’s plan for high-speed residential wireless networks is a giant leap towards universal, affordable broadband in New York City. These kinds of smart investments in broadband infrastructure are precisely what the city needs to remain a global leader,” said Jared Kushner, formerly of the Kushner Companies. 

To bring (high speed, high capacity services to affordable housing developments is not  inexpensive. Utilizing WiFi to provide such services is the most cost effective mechanism  available today. With the advent of the HUD ruling, in conjunction with the Lifeline Broadband  Program, funds are available to implement the infrastructure and the NaaS for affordable housing so that all people can be brought into the 21st Century. 


HUD/HUDSEC RIN: 2501-AD75 – Narrowing the Digital Divide Through Broadband Installation in HUD-Funded New Construction and Substantial Rehabilitation (FR-5890)

Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast 2016-2020


New York City Mayor’s Office – 07/2016