CAST Releases Broadband in Affordable Housing White Paper

CAST | February 10, 2022 | by Donna Childress

Explore the latest CAST White Paper to learn how to bring broadband connectivity to your community affordably.

LeadingAge CAST has released a Broadband in Affordable Housing white paper to help organizations understand the process for bringing broadband connectivity to their communities affordably. After reading the white paper and case studies (releasing in March), technology teams will be prepared to determine how to bring broadband connectivity to their community and their residents and how to secure funding opportunities for the infrastructure. 

Readers will also know how to cover the following:

  • Ongoing expenses based on their senior living organization’s priorities, location, type of community (high-rise vs. cottages).
  • Type of project (new construction vs. rehabilitation).
  • Residents’ needs and ability to pay for the internet.
  • Availability of Internet Service Providers (ISP), the types of connectivity options and services they offer, local partnership opportunities (including partnerships on grants).
  • Their budget.

The white paper is a stepping stone to achieving one of LeadingAge’s 2021 Technology and Telehealth Policy Priorities. LeadingAge is working to ensure equitable internet connectivity for all aging services providers and older adults, including in affordable housing where Wi-Fi access should be federally funded.

Opportunities for Affordable Broadband

LeadingAge firmly believes that the recent Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, with its significant broadband investments, will create many unprecedented opportunities for affordable housing providers to get the funding and help they need to bring affordable and adequate broadband connectivity to their residents.

This guide helps affordable housing providers to bridge the digital, health, and service equity gaps to the low-income populations they serve, which are disproportionately minorities. The white paper covers connectivity models in senior housing, as well as affordable housing provider business models. It also explains infrastructure programs and options for covering ongoing service and operations.

Two key factors in implementing broadband are the building itself and network design, as well as other important considerations ranging from community location to building type and construction materials, to name a few.

Building Considerations

The building itself may impact decisions around broadband connectivity strategy and options. Technology teams should consider the following factors:

New Build vs. Existing Structure: Designing and implementing broadband connectivity networks and infrastructure is usually easier in new construction. When working with existing structures, the design team needs to consider existing restrictions that may block wireless signals.

Cottages vs. High-Rise: In a vertical community, like a high-rise, Wi-Fi coverage could be implemented more cost-effectively by floors. A horizontal community with individual cottages may be more expensive.

Construction and Stud Materials: Wireless signals suffer attenuation, shortening networks’ coverage distances, reducing reliability, and making networks unable to handle the speeds and bandwidth they would normally handle in free spaces. The white paper discusses how to plan for metal sheets, reinforcement grids, meshes, elevators, and studs that absorb electromagnetic energy and render wireless networks useless.

Network Design

Several important aspects influence a network’s technical design and decisions on its individual components:

Building/ Campus-Wide vs. In-Building: Tech teams should decide where the network should provide connectivity: throughout the campus, building-wide, or limited within buildings. These choices have significant implications on the infrastructure network design considerations, including placement of network components and the infrastructure’s cost.

Wired vs. Wireless: The network medium (fiber, copper, etc.) and choice between wired and wireless depends on many factors, including coverage distance; applications and use; needed speed and bandwidth; building materials, layout, and location; privacy and security requirements; and cost.

Public vs. Private: Network design includes segmenting the network appropriately, whether wired or wireless, physically or virtually, into a public or private network.

Spectrum and Interference Considerations: When wireless networks are a part of the solution, it is important to consider potential interference with other wireless signals that may affect the network’s performance.

The white paper also tells you how to plan for and select the appropriate broadband connectivity approach, from visioning to operational considerations to evaluating solutions for residents, clients, families, and even care partners who may deliver healthcare and supportive services.