Yesterday, Kansas City learned that residents in select public housing properties will be getting free connections to Google Fiber.
This potentially awesome news comes thanks to the White House’s ConnectHome initiative. Working through the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the program will bring Internet connectivity to families with school-aged children living in low-income housing in 28 communities.
In cities where Google Fiber is available, Google will wire households for $0 a month and no installation fee.
This will include select public housing properties in Kansas City, as well as parts of Atlanta, Durham, Nashville and all current and future Google Fiber markets, according to the official blog post.
This exciting news continues a cycle that began in late 2014, when Google Fiber announced that it would provide free service to 4,300 Austin public housing residents.
That connection is no accident, says Rachel Merlo, Google Fiber community manager for Kansas City.
“[ConnectHome] was inspired by our partnership with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA), where we’ve worked with local community organizations to help residents sign up for $0/month Fiber service, participate in digital literacy classes, and get access to affordable devices,” Merlo said in an email on Wednesday.
Getting the connection is just one step toward briding the digital divide, however.
“We realize, though, that providing an Internet connection is just one piece of the puzzle,” writes Erica Swanson, Google Fiber’s Head of Community Impact. “People can only take advantage of the many benefits of the web when they understand why it matters and know how to use it.”
That’s why the fiber provider will partner with local community groups to develop basic computer skills training and to create computer labs.
Google Fiber has also worked to advance digital inclusion in Kansas City through a variety of efforts, including the Google Fiber Digital Inclusion Fellowship Program, the Digital Inclusion Fund, and the Community Leaders Program through UMKC and Rockhurst.
It will be interesting to see when the ConnectHome program rolls out and how many households it will affect.
A search for affordable apartments on the HUD website reveals 88 buildings on the Missouri side and 19 on the Kansas side, likely representing thousands of units that could be covered by the program.
With many of Kansas City’s school children living in public housing and moving multiple times throughout grade school, having a permanent, solid backbone of free access could be a game changer.