New Houses

Providing Wi-Fi Access and Education to New Affordable Housing Projects

By providing free internet access and energy education to limited-income residents, the pilot project team is partnering with Murfreesboro Housing Authority to improve quality of life through access to new services and opportunities to save energy and money.

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Background

Affordable housing has many benefits for limited-income residents, like stability and resources for success. However, the cost of internet access can be burdensome. The last few years have proven the importance of connectivity – whether to work or attend school remotely. Providing residents with free Wi-Fi connectivity will not only help improve their quality of life but potentially lower their energy bills when connectivity is coupled with tailored energy educational information. Connectivity will also enable homes to be “smart home” ready so residents will have the opportunity to benefit, in the future, from new in-home technologies that automate energy reduction and make it easier to save.

Person attending online meeting through his laptop

Overview

Murfreesboro Housing Authority (MHA) will install fiber internet at three affordable-housing complexes and will work with SmartMark Communications to create a digital literacy campaign to accompany the newly available Wi-Fi. Since the three participating MHA complexes are currently being built, the fiber cable installation can happen without interrupting residents’ lives. A unique aspect of this pilot project is the ability to tie together internet access and energy-saving information by providing tips and information regarding energy usage on a designated website. These tips can help residents reduce their energy bills, making this pilot project a win-win for residents. United Communications, a subsidiary of Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE), is installing Wi-Fi and providing three years of free service to residents.

Pilot illustration of wi-fi access

Objectives

Pilot Illustration

Success for this pilot project will be measured by the following:

  1. Resident satisfaction with internet availability
  2. Usage of the internet by individuals and by unit
  3. Ease of internet access
  4. Resident behavioral changes
  5. Resident energy management changes
  6. Possible cost reductions

By tracking these metrics, MHA will learn about the impact of greater online access to residents and gain information regarding energy usage changes.

Key Levers for Success

Bringing together experienced professionals; the local power company, MTE; and MHA leadership ensures there is community support for the pilot project and knowledge of how to make it successful. The goal of the project team is to lay the fiber and enable connectivity with minimal disruption to residents. The team has worked diligently to begin the initial phases of deployment prior to move-in for that purpose.

The Team

Thomas Rowe, CEO of Murfreesboro Housing Authority, is intimately familiar with the operational rollout of the new facilities. He will serve as a key mediator among the program’s developers, technologists, and project managers.

Juliet Shavit, president, and CEO of SmartMark Communications, LLC, is a global expert on customer education and innovation technology. She recently designed and implemented the Connected Home and Small Business Demonstration in Annapolis, Maryland, where she worked closely with the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis on providing connecting technology solutions to residents to reduce energy use.

Meredith Salefski Ponce, operational lead for SmartMark Communications, LLC, has overseen large-scale technology and educational programs for more than a dozen utilities and organizations across North America. She is a seasoned project manager responsible for managing the implementation timeline and details.

Dylan Randall, head of digital innovation, SmartMark Communications, LLC, is an experienced developer and technologist who oversees strategic selection and technology implementation for all SmartMark’s programs, including the Connected Home and Small Business Demonstration.

Josh Lynch, chief customer officer, United Communications, is a driving force behind the company’s commitment to the infrastructure and service delivery of this project.

Rick Jurosky, chief technology officer, MTE, is responsible for managing the planning, construction, and operation of network assets, including both fiber and wireless technologies.

Jodie Miller, director of customer operations, MTE, is devoted to the successful customer experience for United Communications customers participating in the pilot. Mackenzie Butts, business and communications administrative assistant, MTE, is instrumental in day-to-day communications with the utility regarding the project.

Glenn Hollandsworth, programs manager, MTE, is responsible for managing MTE’s role in this project.

Next Steps / Timeline

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Construction is continuing at all three MHA properties, with move-ins expected through December 2023. The informational landing page and pre-deployment surveys are being designed during the summer of 2022 and will be available to residents upon move-in.

Photo Gallery

November 2022 progress photos