Access to the Internet is almost universally agreed to be a defining sign of progress in third-world countries.
Yet millions of citizens across the U.S. still sit on the wrong side of the digital divide. The vast majority of these citizens have one thing in common: they live in low-income households, where cost outweighs the benefits of access.
Google Fiber hopes to change that in Kansas City and other communities now connected to its gigabit Internet service. Working with the Housing Authority of Kansas City, Google Fiber will bring its super-fast connection to residents of local public housing properties — for free.
Google launched the program Wednesday at West Bluff Townhomes in Kansas City, Mo., connecting all 100 homes to its service. Through Google’s partnership with ConnectHome, a federal initiative to speed Internet adoption by families living in public housing, families who sign up for access may also purchase discounted devices and learn new computer skills.
“Access to the Internet can mean the difference between thriving or falling behind,” Dennis Kish, vice president of Google Fiber, said in a release. “It (means) more children using computers in after-school programs and STEM classes, more students going online to finish their homework … more families learning basic computer skills that help them be more connected.”
Through the program, more than 1,300 families living in the nine public housing properties throughout the Kansas City metro will gain access to gigabit speeds.
Google plans to bring gigabit speeds to all housing projects in cities connected to Google Fiber.
“We’re working with local providers to identify which properties we’ll connect across these markets,” Kish said. “(We’ll also) be complementing this $0 per month Internet service by working with local partners to make new investments in computer labs and digital literacy classes so residents learn the skills they need to get online.”
The U.S. has some of the most expensive broadband in the world while lagging behind other countries in actual Internet speed, Kish said. Providing no-cost access to low-income families is part of Google FIber’s mission to close those gaps, Kish added.