The Opelika Housing Authority’s board of commissioners passed a resolution to provide internet service to residents in their affordable housing communities.
Executive Director Matthew McClammey said the idea to do so began when the pandemic forced schools to move to online learning in March.
McClammey and Henrietta Snipes, chair of the Housing Authority’s board of commissioners, had been considering the possibility of doing so beforehand, but seeing the immediate need, they developed a plan of action.
“We have families that are just trying to make it, and the extra help is necessary,” McClammey said.
The Housing Authority has contracted Point Broadband to offer internet service to all 10 of its communities in the city at $30,000 a year. The cost of the contract was built into the authority’s operational budget, totaling $6 million annually.
“When residents have the ability to cross the digital divide,” McClammey said. “Educational, health and other social outcomes improve. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlights the critical need for resident access to the internet at home.”
Joanne Harris says her daughter, an incoming freshman at Opelika High School, made the transition to online learning pretty well.
Her family pays $50 a month for their internet service.
“It would definitely be a great help,” Harris said of the Housing Authority’s resolution.
Evenknese Kidd’s two school-age children also handled the adjustment well. Since she’s working from home, internet access continues to be a daily necessity.
Bundled with their television service, she pays $120 a month for her family’s internet access.
“I know during the pandemic if (people) weren’t working they had to cut back on some things,” Kidd said. She added that sometimes residents will even share Wi-Fi codes with each other.
There are about 600 families living within the Housing Authority’s communities.
The agreement with Point Broadband includes the creation of multiple hot spots throughout these communities as well as the city. Each household will have its own login and password.
McClammey is working with Point Broadband on an installation schedule for the Housing Authority’s communities within Opelika.
There will be a second phase for residents in Camp Hill communities since Point Broadband doesn’t service that area. He anticipates finding a provider by the end of the month.
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