Do you work with residents of affordable housing? Are computers and the Internet part of your job responsibilities (even if they’re not part of your job description)? If you answered yes to both, this guide is for you.
The digital divide is a real concern, and to address it, many affordable housing developers are providing access to the Internet at their buildings for the residents. Sometimes this means computer rooms, other times it means direct connection to the Internet in each unit. This has meant that affordable housing staff now need to have basic knowledge of the technology that comes with providing Internet access.
When NPH first started to work on the toolkit, we conducted a survey of our housing developers to find out what their biggest challenges were. We wanted to make sure that the toolkit we built would be useful in addressing these challenges.
The purpose of this toolkit is to help non-technical staff of affordable housing organizations understand the landscape of broadband technology options, best practices, and available resources. This toolkit is NOT a comprehensive guide to everything about technology cost and service, and it is not a solution to the challenges that many organizations face to find funding for technology. What it IS, is a guide to figuring out solutions for the day-to-day challenges.
If you are like many people who will use this toolkit, you will still feel frustrated about the lack of available funding for broadband in affordable housing. You can do something about it! You and your organization can advocate for solutions that will not only support wiring a building for high-speed Internet, but also fund the continuing technology needs – software, computers, trainers, IT support, staff time – that it takes to help your residents really benefit. Here are some suggestions:
You may also want to join our Property Stewardship Working Group or our Resident Services Roundtable, whose members have shared their time, expertise, and feedback on the toolkit. In addition to helping their residents bridge the digital divide, these two working groups also work on other policy and advocacy issues that support healthy buildings and communities.
Back in 2004, Deborah Estrada was one of the first Digital Connectors – a program that identifies talented young people and trains them in technology, with the requirement that they give back to their communities what they have learned. She was a freshman in high school from a low-income, immigrant family, and she didn’t know much about computers… Read More >>
As you make an organization-wide commitment to supporting access to broadband technology for your residents, don’t forget to commit the necessary resources to make that happen.
Before implementing broadband on the sites, polling your residents will help to determine their needs and interests and manage expectations. Engaged residents will be committed to the security and success of your organization’s broadband investments, and it will help to build community at your buildings.
If your Internet is currently free but residents may have to pay for continued service in the future, make sure you’re communicating with residents to set expectations.
Bandwidth restrictions can mean that residents’ Internet connection is not ideal for streaming video. Make sure they understand what the service can do and what its limitations are.
Your committee should include residents, the tenant’s council, the property manager, and staff members. Invite the key players and informal leaders in the resident community. Consider offering a stipend to committee members. Use the committee to set technology goals for the property.
Examples of goals: Increase the number of residents who know how to use computers by providing basic instruction. Improve academic support for students by offering afterschool homework help 2 days a week. Make sure goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely
Publicize all technology programming on one simple flyer and post and distribute it widely. Post signs on desks, monitors, and the wall of computer labs outlining resident guidelines.
Tejal Shah, Resident Services Supervisor at East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) has been working with volunteers for years. All of EBALDC’s computer classes are run by volunteers or partners.
With limited staff, volunteers are a great way to provide technology support to your residents.
Make sure that volunteers are properly trained, oriented and screened. Some organizations conduct background checks on volunteers. For maximum accountability, think of volunteers as staff of your organization who are not paid.
“At the beginning,” says Martin Ugarte, Site Services Director at Valencia Gardens, “we didn’t have any experience putting together a computer lab. CTN was very helpful. They recruited volunteers and began offering classes.”
One way to increase your services capacity is to partner with a service provider. You can offer discounted or free space in exchange for service provision to residents. To protect the interests of both parties, and to ensure stability, keep the following points in mind:
SAN FRANCISCO DEPARTMENT OF TECHNOLOGY
This video explains how the SF Department of Technology is providing free internet services to affordable housing developments using city infrastructure, as well as other organizations working on internet access in San Francisco.
In addition to IT-related service providers, there are other possible partners that could be helpful to you. Here are some suggestions for other possible partners.
“Broadband becomes a service that you are offering so if or when it goes down you have to get it back or you will have people that get more upset than if the toilet is not working”
As a property and/or asset manager, you are responsible for the long-term financial stewardship of your building(s). These are areas to consider as a property/asset manager regarding broadband service provision.
Devise a method for securing computer your lab: security camera, alarms, key card access, cables and locks, staff/volunteer monitoring, resident involvement in accountability
Build equipment repair and replacement into the budget.
Incorporate technology into property management goals, with regular ways to measure outcome and ways to provide clear feedback
Consider how technology in your property impacts your rule enforcement responsibilities. Be clear with residents about the consequences for technology rules and how they will be enforced. Make sure technology rules are communicated clearly, not buried in the house rules.
Consider your property’s technology needs when making personnel decisions, including when you write job descriptions.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN EVALUATING A VENDOR PROPOSAL
- Does it include ongoing maintenance and support?
- What is the installation cost?
- What is the bandwidth and could it be increased in the future?
As a project manager, you are responsible for all aspects of the development process, including meeting capital funder requirements and financial structuring. The following are important points to consider as you plan for broadband service provision:
DO endorse Smart Housing and Broadband Access Principles and Priorities. CETF Principles Priorities Print this letter on your company letterhead and return it to NPH (fax: 415-989-8166; email: Hilda@nonprofithousing.org; mail: 369 Pine St., Suite 350, San Francisco, CA 94104).
DO plan for Internet use from the very beginning of the process-before conduit planning, before the low voltage design plan, and before ANY construction takes place.
DO involve the internet provider/installer in physical planning.
DO plan for future capacity. Include the infrastructure for future broadband services even if you don’t have the funds to pay for service now.
DO use rehab as an opportunity for adding broadband to an existing building. Both the physical rehab and the refinancing are an opportunity to put in the infrastructure and the operating budget to make broadband work.
DO think of wiring for Internet as a part of network engineering. Many aspects of building operations can be wired and networked together: security, fire alarm coordination, utility monitoring, temperature control, phones, etc. Some developers are using Internet telephone service to save on phone bills. Others are networking common areas to provide remote access for employees to network. Ask yourself, “How can my property be most efficiently built and designed for low-cost operation?” Once you are well networked, anything is possible.
DON’T assume that internet service providers (ISPs) or local exchange carriers (LECs) provide the means to distribute internet to your residents
DON’T sign over ownership of your wiring
“Internet access on an individual basis can be expensive. We would like to see everyone have access to the Internet at home and not have to choose between paying rent, other bills, or going to the grocery store. Also it may help their children learn as well as help with their own education. There could be a hundred reasons why to do it and I cannot think of very many reasons not to.”
These tips are to help resident services providers integrate broadband with what they already do and make their jobs easier.
Don’t forget any of your resident populations including seniors, special needs residents-including people with vision issues, non-English speakers etc.
The Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access can be a good resource.
Check out this post from Techsoup.
A measure of available or consumed data communication resources in bits per second usually expressed as kilobits per second (kbps), megabits per second (Mbps), or gigabits per second (Gbps). The relationship between the three measures is as follows: 1 kbps (kilobits per second) = 1000 bits per second 1 Mbps (megabits per second) = 1000 kilo bits per second 1 Gbps (gigabits per second) = 1,000 mega bits per second
The amount of Internet capacity that you will have to spread between your residents, the office, and the computer lab. The amount of bandwidth needed depends upon (a) the number of simultaneous users; (b) the types of activities undertaken (e.g., checking e-mail vs. streaming video), and; (c) the desired responsiveness (e.g., how long it takes for an average web page to load).
A variation on the wireless mesh model where the number of simultaneous users at a specified access point is artificially limited in order to maintain a predetermined level of network performance.
(See mesh network)
Broadband refers to the increase in bandwidth that accompanied the shift in Internet technology in the first decade of the 21st century. Earlier dial up Internet allowed for simple applications such as email and web browsing. Internet delivered through cable modems, digital subscriber lines, wireless technologies and fiber optic transmission allows for complex downloads of music, video, and data.
Refers to the technology that allows computer systems to connect to one another over small or great distances. A broadband connection does not necessarily imply a connection to the Internet, but the word has come to mean one way that people refer to Internet access.
Category 3 (CAT3) cable is a cable for carrying low-voltage signals and is found primarily in older residences with basic telephone service. CAT3 is often referred to as telephone wire.
Network communications cannot be carried out over CAT3 wires.
Category 5 (CAT5) cable is a twisted pair cable for carrying low-voltage signals. Twisted pair cables are used in structured cabling for computer networks such as Ethernet, as well as other signals such as telephone and video.
There are various categories of twisted pair cables with CAT5 being one of the most common in use today. In general, the higher the category number, the faster data can be transmitted over the wires. Higher category numbers can also allow for longer uninterrupted cable runs between locations. A special classification of CAT5 cable known as plenum cable is required in many construction projects because plenum cable does not give off toxic gases in a fire.
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the brains of the computer. It is also called the processor. It is an internal component of the computer where most calculations take place.
The CPU of a computer will tell you how fast it will work and how many things it can do at the same time.
An automatic configuration protocol used on networks that use the Internet protocol (IP). Computers that are connected to IP networks must be configured before they can communicate with other computers on the network (including the Internet). DHCP allows a computer to be configured automatically by a networking device called a DHCP server without the need for a human intervention.
There are two choices for assigning IP addresses. Addresses can be assigned manually or via DHCP. When an IP address is assigned manually, activity originating from the IP address can always be traced back to a specific source. IP addresses assigned via DHCP rotate between connected devices and a single device that connects to a network one day may not get the same IP address the next time it connects. As such, the use of DHCP makes it difficult to trace activity back to a specific originating device, and this makes it harder to identify the source of abuse on the network.
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is a system that uses telephone lines to allow you to connect to the Internet at high speeds. Current technology allows one pair of wires to carry both voice communications and data communications.
DSL services are available in most parts of the United States even in areas where other types of broadband services are not available. DSL services often have a maximum bandwidth lower than the minimum bandwidth of cable or fiber optic broadband services, and this limits the number of simultaneous users. DSL services are usually available to individual residents whose units are wired for telephone service with CAT3 cable.
Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplier (DSLAM – pronounced dee-slam) allows telephone lines to make faster connections to the Internet. It is a network device, located in the telephone exchanges of Internet service providers, that connects multiple customer DSLs to the Internet using technology that allows one pair of wires to carry digital signals for dozens of individual users.
An older residential complex with CAT3 cabling running from the MPOE to each unit might be able to install at DSLAM at the MPOE in order to deliver DSL services to each unit without the need for placing any equipment in the units.
The most widely installed computer networking technology. The Ethernet protocol is specified in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.3 standard. In modern installations, Ethernet installations use special grades of twisted pair wires (e.g., CAT5). The Ethernet protocol is also used in wireless networks.
A technology that uses glass or plastic fibers to transmit data using light. A fiber optic cable consists of a bundle of threads each of which is capable of transmitting messages modulated onto light waves.
The technology that allows high speed Internet to transfer large amounts of information without electronic interference.
A device or set of devices designed to permit or deny network transmissions based on a set of rules. Firewalls are used to protect networks from unauthorized access while permitting legitimate communications to pass.
A tool that can protect information on computers that are connected through a network. Firewalls can either be installed as stand-alone network devices, or as a software firewall that is installed on an individual computer. Failure to have a functioning firewall increases the risk of a computer or networking being maliciously exploited.
A software program or set of instructions programmed into a hardware device. It provides necessary instructions for how the device communicates with its various hardware components.
All computerized systems use firmware and, because firmware is a specialized form of software, there are occasions when firmware has to be upgraded or patched.
A generic term for making an identical image of a computer hard disk drive. Sometimes referred to as cloning, ghosting is a method of converting the contents of a hard drive, including its configuration settings and applications, into an image, and then storing the image in a secure location for future use. This image can be used to restore a computer to its original configuration if something goes wrong.
A useful tool for restoring computers in a computer lab in the case of damage.
A specific geographic location in which an wireless access point provides public wireless broadband network services to mobile visitors through a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). Hotspots may be password protected and are often located in heavily populated or frequented locations. Hotspots typically have a short range of access.
A generic term for a location from which a wireless signal emanates regardless of the type of wireless device generating the signal.
A common connection point for devices in a network. Hubs are used to connect segments of a LAN. A hub contains multiple ports. Hubs have been replaced by network switches.
Hubs are considered obsolete equipment.
An identifier for a computer or device on a network that uses the Internet Protocol (IP) as a means for allowing devices to communicate with one another. Networks using this protocol to route messages based on the IP address of the destination. IP addresses come in two different versions – IPv4 and IPv6. The format of an IPv4 address is a numeric address written as four numbers separated by periods (referred to a “dots”). Each number can be zero to 255. For example, 188.8.131.52 could be an IPv4 address. IPv6 is a newly released protocol which will be more broadly implemented in 2014.
There are private IP addresses that can be used on your LAN, and there are public IP addresses that must be used in the Internet.
A set of standards for digital transmission over ordinary copper telephone wire as well as other media. Home and business users who install an ISDN adapter (in place of a telephone modem) connect to the Internet faster than with a modem connection.
ISDN is an obsolete technology that is only used in areas where DSL is unavailable.
A company that provides Internet (broadband) services, including personal and business access to the Internet. For a monthly fee, the service provider usually provides a software package, username, password and access phone number.
The local Internet provider such as Comcast or AT&T that can provide Internet installation and service.
A Local Area Network (LAN) supplies networking capability to a group of computers in close proximity to each other such as in a multi-tenant residential building or office. A LAN is useful for sharing resources like files and/or printers. A LAN often connects to other LANs and/or to the Internet. A LAN can run over wires (e.g., CAT5) or can function without wires (i.e., a wireless LAN or WLAN).
A way to connect the computers in your computer lab to a shared printer, and one way to distribute Internet services.
A generic term for a public telephone company in the U.S. that provides local service. Alternately: Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC).
A LEC may directly provide broadband (Internet) services to end-users, or a LEC may sell some its bandwidth to other vendors, known as ISPs, who in turn resell Internet services to end-users.
An important consideration when setting up wireless links between sites
Might be necessary to distribute a wireless signal or when connecting networks housed in different buildings.
Media Access Control (MAC) Address is a hardware address that uniquely identifies each node of a network. Every network card (wired or wireless) is assigned a unique MAC address.
MAC addresses can be changed by users allowing one system to appear as a different system on a network. Even with this ability to “spoof” a MAC address, the MAC address is still used (at times) to limit the devices that can connect to a network.
A mesh network (or wireless mesh network) is a network that provides Wi-Fi connectivity within an urban or suburban environment. It is comprised of “mesh routers” which are a combination base station (hotspot) and router in one device. Also called “mesh nodes” the devices are typically installed in elevated locations near a power source.
A mesh network can provide uninterrupted wireless coverage throughout a residential complex. Planning for a mesh network is important since each mesh router (mesh node) requires power, and the mesh network must ultimately connect to a wired broadband connection.
Multiprotocol Label Switching (MLPS) is a way to integrate information that gives network operators flexibility to divert and route traffic around link failures, congestion, and bottlenecks.
MLPS is implemented by LECs.
Minimum Point of Entry (MPOE or MPoE — Pronounced em-poe) is the closest practical point where the cables of a telecommunications service carrier (i.e., LEC) cross a property line or where its wiring enters a multi-unit building.
The number and placement of your MPOEs will determine the cost of installation for a wired network in an existing building. MPOEs should be planned for in new buildings to allow for easy future network installation.
Used to connect multiple computers or other devices as part of a LAN. Network switches can be stand-alone units or integrated into a device like a router. Network switches can be unmanaged or managed. A managed switch contains firmware that allows an administrator to assign a maximum (or minimum) amount of bandwidth to a specific port on the switch.
If you have a LAN, you will need a network switch.
The term port can refer to either a physical or virtual connection point. Physical network ports including Ethernet, universal serial bus (USB), and parallel ports allow connecting cables to computers, network switches, routers, and other peripheral devices. Virtual ports are part of IP networking. They allow software applications to share hardware resources without interfering with each other. Computers and routers automatically manage network traffic traveling via their virtual ports. Network firewalls additionally provide some control over the flow of traffic on each virtual port for security purposes.
Ports control the flow of information over a LAN as well as to and from the Internet. Closing a port restricts the flow of data and can be used to limit what users can do (e.g., closing the ports used by video conferencing software on a network router would prohibit all users from using the service).
The ability to log onto a network from a distant location. The term remote control refers to taking control of another computer.
Remote access can help your IT specialist fix computers even if he/she can’t come into your computer lab or office.
A device that forwards data packets to their destinations, based on their IP addresses. Most modern routers also include a firewall and network switch.
A router will be installed between your LAN and the Internet. Additionally, a router can segregate the computer lab from offices, and a router (or routers) can also segregate individual residential units from one another.
Service Set Identifier (SSID) is a unique identifier attached to information sent over a WLAN that is displayed when a mobile device searches for a connection. It is the name of the WLAN, and all wireless devices on a WLAN must have the same SSID in order to communicate with each other.
Each device in a give locale that allows a user to connect wirelessly to a network must have a unique SSID.
A fiber optic or copper line that carries a large amount of data quickly, and is usually used for businesses that experience high volume and cannot afford to be offline or have their websites down.
T1 is a business class line that may or may not be necessary for your property.
Used by ISPs when abuse is detected on a network. Closing the throttle reduces the amount of bandwidth available to an end-user.
When a single broadband service connects an entire property, network abuse (e.g., downloading software illegally) can result in the ISP throttling down (i.e., reducing) the bandwidth for the entire property thereby impacting all residents.
This is important to read and understand before entering into any contract or purchasing any products/equipment. Violation of an ISPs TOS can result in the termination of broadband services.
Any wire (e.g., CAT5) where individual pairs of wires are twisted together at various intervals to reduce electronic interference.
A group of hosts with a common set of requirements that communicate as if they were attached to the same broadcast domain, regardless of their physical location.
A VLAN can be used to segregate individual residential units from one another.
A wireless standard for connecting electronic devices. A Wi-Fi enabled device such as a personal computer, video game console, Smartphone, and digital audio player can connect to the Internet when within range of a wireless network connected to the Internet. A single Wi-Fi hotspot has an average range of about 20 meters (65 feet) indoors. Wi-Fi has a greater range outdoors and multiple overlapping hotspots (i.e., a wireless mesh) can cover large areas.
Wireless Internet service can connect residents’ computers to the Internet without physically plugging into a wired network provided the residents’ computers have wireless networking capabilities.
The transfer of information between two or more points that are physically not connected. Distances can be short (e.g., a few feet as in a television remote control), or very long ranging from thousands to millions of miles for deep-space radio communications. The term wireless encompasses various types of fixed, mobile, and portable two-way radios, cellular telephones, and wireless networking. Wi-Fi is a specific type of wireless networking that allows for ease of configuration and connection between devices.
Typically radios that provide Internet access and broadcast an SSID, the name of the network (like SFHAwifi) Either a stand-alone device or one integrated into another networking device (e.g., a router) that allows other wireless networking enabled devices to connect to an established LAN or WLAN. (see hotspot)
A community room can generally be served by a single wireless access point. A large property with ubiquitous wireless service could have dozens of wireless access points installed.
Sometimes called a signal booster, a wireless amplified attaches to a router, access point, or Wi-Fi client at the place where the antenna connects. A wireless amplifier can be powered or unpowered, and it can provide for a directional wireless signal or non-directional wireless signal.
This can be used to amplify your wireless signal in order to get wireless service to residential units.
Radios that can extend a wireless signal around a property or a City. A property owner with several buildings could have one site that has Internet and with wireless bridges connect the other sites that can “see” (see LOS) the first building, if there are no obstructions. Specialized wireless networking equipment is required to create a wireless bridge.
A wireless bridge can be used to connect two or more buildings that are physically separated. The equipment must generally be place high up on the structure and be near an electrical power source.
Sometimes called “range expanders”, a wireless repeater is a stand-alone unit positioned within range of a wireless access point that serves as a two-way relay station for wireless signals. To boost signal strength of a wireless repeater, a wireless amplifier may be attached.
A Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) is a type of local area network that uses high-frequency radio waves rather than wires to communicate between nodes.
This list of links and organizations will give you a way to start exploring resources and organizations that can help your organization and residents better utilize broadband technology.
Provided by Community Technology Network (www.ctnbayarea.org). This document offers recommendations for everything from layout, location and lighting to hardware, software and security. It is an excellent resource if you’re just beginning to consider creating a computer lab, or are under way and want to cover all of your bases.
Community Technology Network (CTN) works to bridge the digital divide through programs that support and enhance digital literacy in the Bay Area’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.
If you’re wrestling with the decision between wireless and wired Internet service for your building or building, this decision matrix can help guide your thinking
“Some passwords for older (5-7 years) computer labs have been lost, which makes it much more time consuming and expensive to fix otherwise simple issues.”
These tips will help you ensure that your computer lab operates continuously and securely by helping you balancing security settings and computer upkeep with the needs of your residents.
Community Technology Network published a checklist which offers recommendations for everything from layout, location and lighting to hardware, software and security. It is an excellent resource if you’re just beginning to consider creating a computer lab, or are under way and want to cover all of your bases.
Consider using a disk protection program like Steady State, Deep Freeze or another similar software that will wipe the computer after each use and protect against viruses, etc.
Consider creating ghost CDs of the computers in your lab so that they can be recreated if any problems occur. Disc cloning creates a copy of the entire hard drive and can capture a particular configuration of software and operating system and then push that snapshot out to another computer with similar hardware components. Creating ghost CDs can be helpful when you buy a batch of new computers, to ensure standardization, to restore computers after they fail, and as a preventative maintenance and troubleshooting measure.
Some software to consider are:
Consider creating a portal webpage for each property where community information and events can be shared. You can create a property-wide intranet to share important forms such as work orders and recertification forms.
You can save money by buying refurbished computers . But if you do, be sure to pay attention to the following:
“We have one building that has wifi because it was being provided to an adjacent building and the equipment had to be placed on our building so we were able to negotiate that our tenants should and could use it too.”
Before you decide on wireless or wired broadband for your buildings, it is important to weigh the pros and cons.