A solidary internet offer for 1,000 social housing units

A connection from €2.90 per month? This is the new offer of solidarity internet that will be deployed by Nantes Métropole and Nantes Métropole Habitat from early 2024 to 1,000 households living in social housing in the Port-Boyer district in Nantes.

At this price, well below market prices, “tenants will have access to a high-speed internet offer of 10 Mbps, including a fixed telephone line, at no extra cost, including calls to emergency services and essential administrative services, as well as the 27 free television channels of TNT,” details Francky Trichet, vice-president of Nantes Métropole in charge of innovation and digital technology, who announced the measure at the 83rd HLM Congress held in Nantes from the 3rd to the 5th of October. “Purchasing power is declining, we must provide concrete solutions to help the most vulnerable and combat the digital divide,” emphasizes the elected official. According to a TMO survey conducted in June 2023 with 2,000 people, 8% of the inhabitants of the Nantes metropolis declare difficulties in the face of digital technology, this rate rises to 12% in the priority neighborhoods of the city. Among the latter, 21% do not have a connection at home due to the cost of the subscription.

This offer, tailored to meet the needs of tenants, provides a concrete solution to improve their purchasing power and fight against the digital divide.

Francky Trichet, vice-president of Nantes Métropole in charge of innovation and digital technology

A package and support

To combat this divide, the Solidarity Internet offer – developed by Qoontoo, an internet service provider and digital services based in Nantes and Angers, in partnership with the Social Housing Union (USH) Pays de la Loire and with financial support from the Banque des Territoires – includes the provision of the latest generation of a box, the loan of a computer if necessary, as well as support for internet usage. These introduction courses will be offered, in proximity, by associations in the neighborhood: La Maison du libre, Projets solidaires dans la cité, and the Accoord sociocultural center. “Today, internet connection is essential for everyday life, to find a job, carry out administrative procedures, stay informed, educate oneself, and communicate with family,” recalls François Prochasson, vice-president of Nantes Métropole and city councilor in charge of social housing and housing rights. “It is a fundamental service, along with access to water or electricity. There is a societal issue in learning to use it properly,” he notes.

“I tested it and I would sign up again without a problem”

A first experiment, entirely free for the tenants, was conducted in 2022 with 200 households in the Port-Boyer (116 Nantes Métropole Habitat homes) and La Cholière in Orvault (80 Atlantique Habitations homes) neighborhoods. Faced with the success and positive feedback from the residents, Nantes Métropole Habitat decided to expand the test: for 18 months from early 2024, 7 additional towers in this northeastern district of Nantes, totaling 1,000 homes, will benefit from this low-cost but high-speed offer (10 Mbps). Atlantique Habitations, for its part, is extending the experiment in a format identical to Orvault. “We will work on a broader deployment in Saint-Herblain, and in a second phase in Rezé,” announces its general manager, Vincent Biraud.

“I tested it and I would sign up again without a problem,” testifies Djamel Millet, resident of 79, rue du Port-Boyer. “The box is much more efficient than that of my previous provider. My daughter can easily connect from her room to check E-Lyco (editor’s note, the digital platform of high schools and colleges) or watch a video, while with my previous subscription at €29.90/month, the network only worked in the living room.”

“The technical solution proposed by Qoontoo is reliable,” confirms Francky Trichet, “it covers most of the daily internet needs: performing online procedures, handling emails, browsing the internet, checking social media, or watching films and videos in standard quality.” Three-quarters of the tenant testers approved it, emphasizes Lénaïck Le Roch, project manager in the Urban Policy and Living Environment Department at NMH. The only drawback: “those who need a faster speed would have wanted a broader package, with more services.” The message has been heard: beyond the collective €2.90 offer implemented from 2024, Port-Boyer tenants will be able to subscribe to affordable options directly from the operator, such as a broader range of channels or mobile phone plans.

A stepping stone towards deployment in France

The infrastructure set up by Qoontoo also allows for the dematerialization of communication between the social lessor and its tenants. “Our R&D teams are working on developing other services, such as a social network to facilitate exchanges in the residences, an app to support aging at home, or an application to optimize water and electricity consumption in the apartment,” details Fabrice Bellois, director of Qoontoo, delighted with the partnership signed in Nantes. “This project is a stepping stone to extend the trial throughout the French territory,” he assures. On the side of Nantes Métropole, the intention is clear: “We hope to deploy this offer more widely in the priority neighborhoods of the city in the future,” recalls François Prochasson.

The tenant representative associations support the project. On Wednesday, October 4, the CLCV, CGT, CGL, CNL, Afoc44, and CSF signed a collective agreement to launch the deployment of the Solidarity Internet throughout the buildings in Port-Boyer.

Food, mobility, health: the range of services is expanding in social housing

Housing. This is the main mission of social landlords, but not the only one. For several years now, the range of services offered to tenants in social housing has been expanding. In addition to the €2.90 per month internet subscription, Nantes Métropole Habitat is multiplying initiatives to support its tenants: aid funds for tenants in difficulty to pay their rent, provision of 40 shared vegetable gardens at the foot of the buildings, financial support for the sale of organic products at low prices via the VRAC network… “In a difficult context due to rising prices, the number one challenge is to improve the quality of life and defend the purchasing power of the residents,” recalls its president, Thomas Quéro. The other social landlords in the metropolis are not to be outdone. At the foot of CDC Habitat’s residences, since October 2022, the association Le coup de main numérique welcomes residents suffering from “illectronism” in its E-tinér@nce caravan to help them with their online procedures. La Nantaise d’Habitations is deploying video assistance, through its Tenant Listening Service. Another example: the “Health Listening” service, offered by Harmonie Habitat to provide psychological support, inform tenants about their rights, or guide them to the right professional. This mutualist lessor is also experimenting with, in the Symbiose residence, delivered in 2021 in Saint-Herblain, the loan of electric bicycles as well as a concierge service, including smart lockers to receive and send parcels.

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