Retrofit Program to Expand High-speed Internet Access in Affordable Housing Statewide

The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) at MassTech announced the launch of the Residential Internet Retrofit Program, a $22 million statewide initiative to equip public and affordable-housing units across the state with high-speed internet for current and future residents.

MBI will bring together internet service providers (ISPs) and property owners to upgrade in-building telecommunications wiring, equipment, and infrastructure within older housing developments to provide residents with the necessary network capabilities to fully utilize high-speed internet service essential for daily activities such as communicating with friends and family, remote work, online educational opportunities, and telehealth appointments.

“Our economic future depends on high-quality internet access for all, especially for low-income populations who have been historically overlooked and disproportionately impacted by the digital divide,” Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao said. “The Retrofit Program takes an equitable approach to addressing the root causes of low-quality internet service in public and affordable housing. This program makes direct investments that will lead to enhanced connectivity for residents, helping them engage fully in 21st-century activities.”

MBI Director Michael Baldino noted that a substantial portion of public-housing buildings are more than 50 years old. “Low-income families in these buildings face barriers to accessing the speeds offered by broadband service if the wiring in their apartments predates the internet ageThe Retrofit Program will lead the charge to engage with property managers and then to engage internet service providers, who will work together to build out cutting-edge infrastructure that fully connects public and affordable housing units to high-speed internet.”

The effort will involve updating the wiring infrastructure of approximately 22,000 units in affordable-housing developments across the state.The funding for the Retrofit Program comes from the U.S. Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF), a program launched as part of the national American Rescue Plan Act. The project is part of $175 million in total CPF funding overseen by the Executive Office for Administration and Finance to address the digital divide in Massachusetts, which includes the ongoing Gap Networks Grant Program launched by the MBI in October.

Housing operators interested in joining the program should submit an expression of interest via MBI’s online form (click here), which collects basic organizational information, along with the addresses of eligible properties the operator wishes to submit to the program. In spring 2024, the MBI will launch a request for information (RFI), which will help inform the launch of a formal request for proposals (RFP) later in 2024. The MBI will then issue quarterly RFPs with an updated list of eligible locations statewide, based on the submissions of interest from housing operators.