We want to get people using the web and we’ve got a partnership to do it.
Ōtautahi Community Housing Trust and Enable today announced a 10-year partnership aiming to get free, high-speed internet to ŌCHT homes in Christchurch.
Enable plans to deliver free, maximum speed (close to 1Gbps) wholesale internet to ŌCHT, and ŌCHT plans to offer a free internet service to eligible tenants.
Enable will ensure all ŌCHT homes in Christchurch and Lyttelton are connected to its network and have what’s needed to be connected to ŌCHT’s internet service.
The proposal is going through the regulatory approval process, which could take some time.
Enable continues to get fibre to ŌCHT communities, as part of its city-wide fibre broadband rollout plan.
ŌCHT is working to finalise funding and support for the support and education components of the initiative.
The partners are also working to identify more partners, particularly those who might be able to help the supply devices to some tenants.
Why do it?
Enable and ŌCHT want to tackle the digital inequity that’s stopping too many people from using the internet.
They understand community housing tenants can experience high levels of digital exclusion.
More than 60% of ŌCHT tenants are not connected to the internet at home – meaning they do not have the means or skills to access and benefit from the digital world.
This compares to an estimated 10% of the wider city community.
Enable chief executive Steve Fuller says Enable and ŌCHT “share a belief that the opportunity to access the internet and participate in the digital world is really essential in this day and age.
“The reality is that a significant number of people in our community are disadvantaged by this and we want to address the barriers that stand in the way for ŌCHT tenants; Enable and the Trust can do this together.”
ŌCHT chief executive Cate Kearney says the Covid-19 lockdowns underscored how digital inequity can affect people when those not “online” were left very isolated.
“We know that the world has become so reliant on being digitally connected, whether it’s to use services from banking to education; finding a job; the ways families, friends and community groups connect; and even how we access entertainment.
“If our tenants cannot connect and participate, they will become increasingly isolated and unable to fully participate in society.”
Enable and ŌCHT have been working together for several months on understanding the needs of the trust’s tenants and specifically what stands in the way of them accessing the digital world.
The Government, through its Digital Inclusion Blueprint, articulates the barriers people face under four headings – access (to connectivity and devices), skills, motivation, and trust.
“As we’ve worked to understand the needs of our community it has become clear that we need to address all four barriers,” Ms Kearney says.
“This problem cannot be solved by simply turning on an internet service and expecting people to use it.
“Providing internet connectivity and digital support services to our tenants is an exciting opportunity that aligns to our goal of providing homes that foster community participation and wellbeing.”
Enable’s fibre network is already available to all ŌCHT properties in Christchurch and is being installed into many of these properties in preparation for a fibre-only fixed infrastructure future – where broadband reliability and performance levels only possible over fibre will be critical.
Mr Fuller says “the investment we have made in our network is being underutilised by this community due to the digital equity barriers many tenants face.
“Through this partnership, and the provision of our free internet service, we will ensure our investment will benefit our community now with tangible community value created.
“We have estimated the initiative will generate around $20m in measurable economic benefits to the Christchurch community over a five-year period. That’s very significant.”
Ms Kearney adds there are several social benefits to be realised through this initiative that are harder to define in terms of dollar value – from civic participation to improved community wellbeing.
Details of the ŌCHT internet service will be released after the outcome of the approval process is known.
Tenants will be invited to join the service soon after.
The rollout timetable will be finalised after approval is confirmed and tenants will be told when the fibre installs will start, and when they are likely to be able to connect to the service.
The service is not available in Akaroa, which is outside the Enable network.