White House ConnectHome Pilot Program Expands High-Speed Broadband to Low-Income Families

The public/private partnership involves eight ISPs who will offer service in 28 communities

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More than 90% of households with a college-educated parent use the Internet, but fewer than 50% of households with less than a high-school education have Internet access.

President Barack Obama is hoping to end this disparity. This week his administration announced the 27-city (and one Native American reservation) launch of ConnectHome, a new initiative with HUD-selected communities, the private sector, and the federal government to expand high-speed broadband to more families across the country. The pilot initiative will initially reach over 275,000 low-income households – and nearly 200,000 children – with the support they need to access the Internet at home.

[Related: Federal Phone Subsidy for Low Income Families Could Include Broadband Services]

ConnectHome builds on Obama’s ConnectED initiative that is on track to connect 99% of K-12 students to high-speed Internet in their classrooms and libraries over the next five years. ConnectHome will help ensure that these students still have access to high-speed Internet once they are home.

A new analysis released by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA)  illustrates that some Americans are still unable to benefit from high-speed broadband, especially America’s lower-income children. In fact, black and Hispanic households are also 16 and 11 percentage points less likely to have an Internet connection than white households, respectively, while Native American households trail white ones by 19 percentage points.

Internet Service Providers, non-profits, and the private sector will offer broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in assisted housing units. Eight nationwide Internet Service Providers have announced they are partnering with mayors, public housing authorities, non-profit groups, and for-profit entities to bridge the gap in digital access for students living in assisted housing units.

For example: In Google Fiber markets (including the ConnectHome cities of Atlanta, Durham, Kansas City, and Nashville), Google Fiber will offer $0 monthly home Internet service to residents in select public housing authority properties and will partner with community organizations on computer labs and digital literacy programming to bridge the digital divide, especially for families with K-12 students.

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. Students who don’t have broadband internet access at home perform worse on standardized tests, and have difficulty applying for and securing jobs, the White House asserts. This ‘homework gap’ runs the risk of widening the achievement gap, denying hardworking students the benefit of a technology-enriched education. The ConnectHome initiative seeks to reverse this trend.