FCC Votes Approves Internet Subsidies For Low-Income Residents

As a property manager I was speaking with this week stated, offering WiFi in low-income housing “is just the right thing to do for residents”.  Property owners are eating the cost of Internet for their low-income properties in order to give residents WiFi access as an amenity when they cannot increase the rent to cover the cost as they would for a market rate building.

Interestingly enough, the FCC voted last Thursday to expand the Lifeline Subsidy program to include Internet services.  This program offers $9.25/ month to families to help out with communications services costs.

While Lifeline program recipients can now include the cost of their Internet in what communications services are eligible for subsidy, it is important to note that the actual amount that families receive has not increased, only what services are eligible.

The statics regarding Internet services for low-income households are staggering with only 48% of low-income (less than $25K/ year) households having internet access, compared with 95% of households with incomes above $150,000.

It is unclear exactly how these subsidies will affect the building owners providing Internet, if at all, but what is clear is that the FCC recognizes Internet access as a utility and not an amenity.

What is Google’s Project Fi and What Does It Mean For WiFi Calling?

Project Fi is a program to deliver a fast, easy wireless experience in close partnership with leading carriers, hardware makers, and our users. -Image and Caption from: https://fi.google.com/about/

Project Fi, Google’s attempt at competing with the traditional Big-4 wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint) is offering a semi-fresh, semi-less-expensive take on the traditional mobile price plans, albeit, with a few interesting perks.

Similar to T-Mobile, the deal with Project Fi is that it is clearly being marketed to the millennials, “Uncarriers” (to coin T-Mobile) and frugal-yet-tech savvy peeps.  The idea is simplicity and transparency and a fresh take on the confusing billing practices of the big carriers (however, we have to give a shout-out to T-Mobile for really shaking up the industry in that regard).  Basically, you pay $20 for unlimited talk and text and buy data in packages.  The data portion is where Google’s take on mobile is refreshing: you get a refund on data you don’t use and if you go over, you only get charged for what you used – no crazy data overage charges.

What does this mean for WiFi Calling?

Well, Project Fi is currently only available on the Nexus 6 – so that means no iPhone, no Galaxy – but the good news is that WiFi Calling is “almost” out of testing on the Nexus 6 so Project Fi will allow for WiFi calling and consumers will be provided with yet another option and cellular service provider that offers WiFi support for WiFi calling.

Facts About Google’s Project Fi:

  • Project Fi is partnered with both T-Mobile and Sprint and boasts seamless handoff between the two carriers AND WiFi
  • No crazy overages – for data you will only pay for what you use
  • WiFi Calling WILL be supported, however WiFi calling on the Nexus 6 reported a bug last weekend that they are claiming should be in just a few days
  • To check out Project Fi’s coverage map, click here: https://fi.google.com/coverage

CCRCs Using Energy Savings To Offset Amenity Costs

Sound familiar: Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor are residents at your property.  They decide to go stay with their children for the weekend.  It’s mid-summer and 95 degrees outside.  They leave for the weekend with the windows open and the A/C blasting.  Every minute your property is losing money – but there is nothing you can do about it.  There is a solution to the problem and building owners are beginning to catch on: wireless energy management.  DOWNLOAD PRESENTATION TO LEARN MORE

For Senior and Assisted Living facilities, one of the largest uncontrolled costs is energy spending.  Because the majority of CCRCs cover the cost of one or more resident energy utilities (whether that be HVAC or electricity), residents are not as frugal as they would be if they were paying for their own energy.  However, one of the main benefits to residents living in a CCRC is that the resident pays their monthly rent and does not have to worry about  recurring utility bills – it makes life a lot simpler for the resident and makes the property that much more attractive.  The downside is that the building owner ends up footing outrageous energy bills and the worst part is… the building owner has no control over how the energy is being used.  The building owner is in an energy catch-22.

Reduce Energy Usage Up To 25%

Resident energy usage is not the only problem building owners are facing either – the energy used to run a CCRC is mind blowing.  Amenity area energy and lighting, security systems, kitchen equipment and refrigeration, HVAC for the building – these all add up.  The solution is to employ a wireless energy management system which offers a host of benefits to the building owner:

  • Monitor and control energy usage manually and automatically
  • Receive alerts to out of trend/ suspicious energy usage
  • Receive alerts to failing/ failed equipment
  • Control HVAC, lighting, A/V, electricity, security in and out of apartments
  • Provide wireless access throughout the entire building
  • Provide WiFi voice calling throughout the entire building


Hotelwifitest.com offers transparency in hotel guest WiFi speeds

Head of mobile at Yandex (Russia’s largest search engine), Yaroslav Goncharov, founded hotelwifitest.com after coming to the realization that no matter where in the globe you are, one thing is for sure: finding quality hotel WiFi is pretty darn tough.  A recent New York Times article points to a specific experience Goncharov had while in a Shanghai hotel a few years back where he was paying $20 a day for WiFi access but the service was so poor he could not work:

I was paying $20 a day for WiFi that was so slow I couldn’t complete my work… I was so annoyed, I said, If I ever have an opportunity to fix this problem , I will try.

There are other sites out there that tell a user what speed they are experiencing like speedtest.net, however hotelwifitest.com has a major difference.  It takes the results of the speed test and makes them publicly visible and then ranks hotels according to WiFi speed and reliability.  Consumers now have a place to go where they can type in the name of the hotel they will be visiting and check out their WiFi stats as well as a forum to make their WiFi experience, be it good or bad, visible to the public.  hotelwifitest has already had hotels in upwards of of 4000 cities tested on their site and there are sure to be more to come as the travelling public becomes more aware.

For WiFi providers, hotelwifitest.com is sure to keep ISPs on their toes.  Check out hotelwifitest.com

Multifamily Executive Speaks With Industry Execs on Distruptive Tech

Last week, Multifamily Executive caught up with some multifamily execs to discuss industry disrupting technology.  Of course “The Internet” was generally discussed as the biggest disruption over the last few years.   Internet related specifics included the “Internet of Things” and “communication” both by residents, personally and between the residents and the property.  Marketing data and analytics also made the conversation – another Internet-related disruption that can be both helpful and costly for building owners.  Featured in the MFE clip were Scott Wesson of UDR, Max Peek of Waterton, Ken Hodges of Western National and NMHC’s Rick Haughey.  Check out the clip below:

Seniors are happier and healthier when they are connected…

grandpa-and-familyIt’s a fact CCRC providers know and know well.  Studies show that Seniors who have more time with loved ones are simply healthier and happier than Seniors who are lonely.  A huge part of the emotional battle for both Seniors and their loved ones in regards to moving into a CCRC, and changes like moving from Independent to Assisted Living, is the fear of being alone, or being forgotten and of losing touch with love ones.  Offering property-wide Internet access, technology classes and device time for Seniors can help them to stay connected to family and friends, view more family photos, engage on social media and access more activities that will aid in emotional and physical well-being.

Technology has become a major contributor toward improving the quality of life of seniors living in CCRCs.  In 2015 a provider who offers technology to residents in the form of property-wide WiFi, device usage or classes on social media/ how to use technology, is going to have a huge advantage over a community that either does not offer technology or leaves it up to the resident to set up their own technology.  Families will be happy to know that their loved one’s new home will allow them to be connected online, have a way to access family pictures on Facebook, family blogs and email threads .  Senior’s loved ones will also be happy to know that when going to visit their loved ones, children and grandchildren will have access to the technology they need to stay connected to work and family while visiting.

As for devices, WiFi enabled smartphones and tablets have truly simplified the process of using the Internet for all walks of life. The “app” model makes it easy for Seniors to access things like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Games, etc. by simply touching an icon.  Another big benefit of seniors using WiFi and social media to stay connected is that the connection is real-time.  While pictures are wonderful, they can also create a sense of melancholy as they are in the past, but social media is real-time and allows seniors to feel as though they are living in the moment with their loved ones.


Is your hotel losing by charging for WiFi?

monitoringFor years WiFi has consistently been named as the most requested hotel amenity by travelers and a huge determinant in where guests book and how they rate their stay at a hotel.  But what about the cost of charging for WiFi? Hotelier.com’s recent article: The High Cost of Charging for WiFi, concludes that hotels simply cannot afford to charge for WiFi or offer tiered service where free means “slow and unreliable”.

In 2015, as the article points out, today’s travelers rely on WiFi as a basic service that allows them to keep in touch with work, family and friends and this service is no longer an amenity but “as basic as bathrobes and body wash”.  In fact may hotels would probably benefit from forgoing soaps and shampoos and investing in some high quality WiFi.  A recent IHG poll of 10,000 business travelers had 60% of the respondents calling out FREE WiFi as the single most important feature of the room.

So what does all these mean for hotel owners?  Clearly  hotel owners struggle with the costs associated with providing free, high quality WiFi to guests.  This is a struggle that hotel owners can sympathize with, but as Kristine Rose,  VP of brands for Hyatt pointed out, “Internet connectivity is no longer an amenity.  It has become an integral part of travelers’ daily lives and a basic expectation.  Travelers shouldn’t have to remember which brands or locations offer it for free or the strings attached to get it”.  Hyatt was the first non-luxury major brand to offer free WiFi to it’s guests and the brand sees the decision as an absolutely necessary one.

While one major traveler concern is that the WiFi be free – the other major concern is that the WiFi be fast and reliable.  For hotels that advertise free WiFi but provide a slow, unreliable service, the negative impact on guests can be just as great as not offering it at all.  In fact, many guests simply will not return to a hotel after a bad WiFi experience.  High quality, managed WiFi is a must and hotel owners need to look to proven WiFi brands, like Spot On Networks, to ensure that 1) the guest experience is a positive one and 2) that network issues that do occur are handled quickly and do not interfere with hotel operations.

Sprint enables WiFi calling on iPhone

Last fall saw a flood of major news on the WiFi calling front.  First came the T-Mobile/ Apple announcement that T-Mobile would be the first major carrier to support WiFi Calling with the release of iOS 8, then the subsequent announcements by both AT&T and (a reluctant) Verizon that they would support WiFi calling in mid to late 2015.  WiFi calling has been a huge boon for T-Mobile with their “UnCarrier” marketing pitch holding mass appeal to millennials.  Now, six months later, Sprint has announced support for WiFi calling on the iPhone.  Sprint had previously supported WiFi calling on Android devices, but the WiFi calling support (which requires an iOS 8.3 update) on the iPhone is big news.  Announced yesterday was that Sprint will be making carrier settings over the next couple of days to support the new update.

David Owens, SVP of Product Development for Sprint spoke about the obvious benefits the carrier will see as a result of adding WiFi hotspots to their arsenal of voice coverage:

WiFi Calling is like a major expansion of our network, allowing Sprint customers to get coverage anywhere they have WiFi connectivity… Traditional wireless technology has some limitations in places like basements and high-rise office buildings.  WiFi expands our customer’s connectivity in a big way.  The addition of WiFi calling for iPhone customers is just one more example of how Sprint is getting better every day.”

Next on the horizon should be some major announcements coming from AT&T and Verizon regarding their support for WiFi calling.  Both carriers have been somewhat smug when speaking about WiFi calling as an offering on their networks and pointing to holes in T-Mobile/ Sprint coverage as being the primary motivators for supporting the WiFi calling feature.  That being said, you simply can’t argue with market demand and the market is demanding WiFi calling… the adoption of support of the feature on the iPhone is proof enough of that.



7 Million Customers Using T-Mobile WiFi Calling

cellboost-woman (2)A recent article in FierceWireless points to a “strong adoption” of the T-Mobile WiFi Calling feature.  T-Mobile now boasts 7 million WiFi calling users and growth is expected to “accelerate quickly”.  T-Mobile users are realizing the convenience of WiFi calling as a real solution to poor indoor cellular coverage.  T-Mobile’s partnering with Apple for the launch of the iOS  8 and the iPhone 6, which both support WiFi calling, was huge for T-Mobile, in addition T-Mobile allowed customers to upgrade to a WiFi calling capable device last year if they did not already have one.

AT&T and Verizon have promised the feature for mid-2015 and it’s rumored that certain customers are now Beta testing the feature for the two major carriers with success.  WiFi technology companies, like Ruckus, have pointed to WiFi Calling as the next big disruptive technology, set to turn the cellular model on it’s head.

We are already beginning to see new business models formed around WiFi calling that show many cellular customers are embracing the disruptive technology and even forgoing cellular all together.  Similar to what is happening in the cable TV market with pay-for Internet TV, we are seeing customers, especially millennials embracing services that put them in control of their spending.  The options range from WiFi only phones to seamless WiFi calling/ cellular offerings from major carriers to MNVO networks that offer inexpensive cellular backup plans but rely primarily on WiFi.

With the amount of WiFi networks expected to double, globally, by 2020, WiFi calling is more than just a “what if”.  We are seeing WiFi Calling being taken very seriously by property owners and building developers as a real alternative to costly solutions like DAS.  The major benefit of WiFi calling to building owners, of course, is that it offers multiple benefits.  Unlike DAS, which effectively creates a new cell tower in a building, WiFi offers high speed unlimited data usage… not to mention it is significantly less expensive than a DAS.  A carrier-grade, managed WiFi network can be put into a building for as low as $0.40/ per square foot, compare to a DAS which runs $2 – 2.50/sq ft.


CCRC Residents Seeking Property-Wide WiFi Connectivity

seniors_ipad2The term “amenity” in reference to Senior Living is changing and is expected to change drastically in the next 5-10 years.  Who would have thought five years ago that WiFi would be a necessary amenity for an industry catering to seniors?  After all, five years ago, younger generations were just beginning to figure out and become dependent on their smartphones.  However, the need for property-wide internet connectivity in Senior Living is a reality.  According to a Pew Research study 68% of seniors aged 70+ are on the internet – with CCRCs looking to appeal to even younger residents, property-wide WiFi starts to play a real role as a differentiator between facilities.

Boomers are clearly technology dependent and fall into one of two categories due to the massive date range of the generation:  a) putting their parents into Senior Living or b) potential senior living resident.  That being said, the entire generation is tech dependent and deserves real attention when considering whether or not to implement property-wide WiFi networks.  The potential resident will certainly want the WiFi amenity and the younger-Boomer, who is married to their Smartphone/ Tablet/ etc, will not want their parents in a facility with seemingly limited connectivity.

Technology amenities are something that providers are taking very seriously, according to a seniorhousingnews.com article, especially when they look to the future generations, primarily the Millennials:

“The next generation of decider and chief is the millennial,” said Susan Rivers, head of Global Wealth Management Corporate Communications at BNY Mellon.  It is important that Senior Living properties look to future-proofing their buildings as best they can for the next 10-20 years.  “We need to be giving a lot of thought to what comes after – and that’s something that’s going to ripple throughout this economy,” said Harold Gross, partner at Market Research Answers during the 2014 Senior Care Marketing Sales Summit in Chicago.

Clearly, a large part of the focus when looking towards the future of Senior Living will be in the area of wireless technologies.  Properties need to begin offering technology now as it makes, “it easier for [the adult child] to stay connected to Mom and Dad – and if [the adult child] is visiting [he or she] can do work, or share photos of the visit on Facebook.”

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