A huge national effort to begin narrowing the Digital Divide took it first small step Wednesday in Kansas City. US Housing Secretary Julian Castro, at the West Bluff housing complex, announced that the 100 apartments there now have superfast Internet connections at no charge to residents. They are the first of 1,300 area families in subsidized housing, and 275,000 nationwide, who will get free or reduced-cost access under the federal ConnectHome program.
This is a reparation for Kansas City residents, in April 2015 “KCTV 5” in Kansas City reported, “The Urban League of Greater Kansas City reports that one-third of Black & Hispanic households don’t have internet and that Google’s low-income connection efforts are coming up short. In some city neighborhoods only 1 in 5 households have internet. They & city are disappointed that expectations of universal internet adoption never came to be and residents are still struggling with how to use all this speed, 4 years later.”
Unfortunately, Google’s original installation of new fiber broadband that’s 100 times faster than the national average, was poorly planned and resulted in an expansion of the Digital Divide in the city.
The superfast gigabit service at West Bluff, courtesy of Google Fiber, offers residents a chance for the Internet benefits that most Americans take for granted. A coalition of local agencies and other businesses also is on board with ConnectHome to help residents get technology training and access to low-cost personal computers and other hardware.
For West Bluff resident Shaunte Mack, that will mean reliable Internet access for one of her sons as he does his high school homework. Her three preschool-age grandchildren will also be able to use online games and lessons to proactive their ABCs and other skills to be ready for kindergarten. And she will have a much easier way to find the work-at-home jobs she uses to support her family. “I have access on my cellphone now, but I don’t know how to use the Internet fully,” she said. “I’m excited to learn and be able to do more.”
Another Connected Neighbor is Eugene Stegall Bey, who opens West Bluff’s community space most mornings for the program that provides juice, snacks and a safe place for children to wait for their school bus. As part of ConnectHome, a computer lab with eight PCs will be added to that space – a prospect that has Bey “very excited.”
Erica Swanson, Google Fiber’s head of community impact programs said, “We’re so proud that we’re beginning this work in Kansas City, and we’re proud of all our important partners, who are helping to make sure that residents are able to purchase discounted computers, have access to digital literacy classes, and are partnering with us in the outreach. We can bring the connectivity, but we know residents need to have and affordable device and know how to use it.”
The ConnectHome program, announced last July by Castro shortly after he took over at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, aims to bring affordable Internet access to public housing residents in 27 cities and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma. Those areas were chosen in part because they showed they would make the most of the program.
Google Fiber said it will offer the same service eventually to public housing residents in all its cities. That means Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas, besides the Kansas City area. Google Fiber is also coming to Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. and it’s scouting several other cities.
In the other ConnctHome cities, other Internet services will provide free or reduced-cost access. An estimated 75% of Americans whose annual household income is under $30,000 have Internet connections, compared to 98% of those with annual incomes above %75,000. See Video.
“The Internet is no longer a luxury, but something everyone needs to succeed,” Castro said. And with a year left in the Obama administration, “there’s and urgency to accomplish things that make life better for all Americans.”
“Our goal is to get communities hooked up to the Internet as thoughtfully and quickly as we can under ConnectHome,” he said. “We’re delighted to have the program on the ground and going in Kansas City.”
Read Article (Greg Hack | kansascity.com | 02/03/2016)
Many individuals find that learning to use the Internet “Fully” & devices that connect to it “Fully”, is a lot easier said than done. One would think in this Digital Era, as Technology has advanced at such an exponential rate, an effective service would have been created to address his learning issue.
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