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Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) -Residents and neighbors of three Rochester public housing sites may be getting free internet service.

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The Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Authority staff is recommending “community wi-fi” be installed at the Homestead Terrace, Homestead Green, and Westwood townhouse sites.

Staff says “This installation will deliver public and password-protected internet to not only our public housing tenants but to other low-income families“ near each site.  ”The proposed project would include all necessary hardware suitable for up to 300 users within 1000 feet of each property. “  

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One major reason for the recommendation is the challenge many families will face when school resumes with distance learning.

“Staff believes this to be a prudent investment for our community. First, as the Coronavirus pandemic has exposed internet inequality among students this community project ensures all our students access to meaningful learning. Second, this allows children from low-income families to continue education through distance learning at no cost to the family - saving the family approximately $100/month in internet fees to use toward other costs such as rent and utilities.”

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Staff says Jaguar Communications has agreed to complete the project at a total cost of $153,000. Ongoing costs for the three properties is $2,127/month. Staff recommends the Installation costs be covered by the HRA levy. The monthly service costs would be covered either through the levy or another source, including possible grants.

A vote on the recommendation is scheduled at the HRA board's Tuesday meeting.

Staff Recommendation
Staff recommends the Board authorize the HRA to enter into a contract with Jaguar Communications to provide public housing families access to the internet during these unprecedented times.

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