Obama Pushing Broadband for Low-Income Households

David McCabe, The Hill, July 15, 2015

President Obama on Wednesday will announce plans to work with local governments, telecommunications firms and nonprofits to provide broadband service and digital training to more than a quarter million low-income households.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) pilot program–dubbed ConnectHome–is designed to bring residents of public or assisted housing online in 28 communities.

The plan will bring broadband Internet service and training to close to 200,000 low-income children, the administration said.

“While many middle-class U.S. students go home to Internet access, allowing them to do research, write papers, and communicate digitally with their teachers and other students, too many lower-income children go unplugged every afternoon when school ends,” the White House said.

“This ‘homework gap’ runs the risk of widening the achievement gap, denying hardworking students the benefit of a technology-enriched education.”

The president will formally announce the program in Durant, Okla., the White House said. Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro painted access to broadband Internet as an economic necessity for children and their parents.

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Eight Internet service providers, including CenturyLink, Cox Communications, Sprint and Google Fiber, will provide low-cost or free broadband service to HUD residents in the chosen communities.

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In addition to support from the corporate and nonprofit sectors, the initiative will rely on the support of local governments.

“Mayors from Boston to Durham, and from Washington, DC to Seattle, have committed to reallocate local funds, leverage local programming, and use regulatory tools to support this initiative and the expansion of broadband access in low-income communities,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

Other than a small U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, the program uses no federal money, officials told reporters.

HUD will also be directed to take additional steps to make broadband a part of its assisted housing.

Castro said that the administration will evaluate the program’s success for possible future expansion.

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