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Politics & Policy

SF lawmakers call for affordable internet for low-income residents

San Francisco City Hall | Jana Asenbrennerova for The Standard

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is asking internet service providers to make internet connections affordable for seniors and people with disabilities.

The resolution unanimously passed Tuesday asks companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast to adjust their costs so low-income and older residents can have access to high-speed internet.

Supervisor Dean Preston sponsored the resolution with supervisors Ahsha Safaí, Connie Chan, Shamann Walton, Myrna Melgar and Hillary Ronen joining as co-sponsors.

As much of the world shifted to a virtual setting at the beginning of the pandemic, having access to stable internet has become "essential for survival," notes the resolution. Older people and those with disabilities, especially in Black and Brown neighborhoods, are becoming increasingly isolated without internet access.

The resolution calls it "digital redlining." Neighborhoods with a legacy of under-investment—like the Bayview, Tenderloin and Chinatown—are often the ones with slower internet speeds due to old cables and dated housing infrastructure, reads the resolution.

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"Big network providers benefited from the promotion of online activities at the start of the pandemic, while such shifts exacerbated the impact of the digital divide in senior and disabled communities," reads the resolution.

The federal Affordable Connectivity Program provides cheaper internet to people under 200% of the national poverty level, which for a one-person household would be making $27,000 a year.

Supervisors are asking for discounts based on San Francisco's definition of "low income," 80% of its area median income. The expansion would include households that make less than $77,600 a year.

Correction: Supervisor Dean Preston was the author of the resolution.

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