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For Austin's public housing residents, access to the Internet can mean the difference between keeping up or falling behind. It can mean more resident children using computers in after-school programs and robotics clubs, more students using a home computer to finish their homework as their peers do, more working adults completing online GED training modules at home, and more seniors participating in basic computer skills workshops.

That’s why today, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) is launching Unlocking the Connection, a homegrown Austin initiative to help close the digital divide for the 4,300 people who live in public housing. Unlocking the Connection addresses the full set of resources needed to make the Web more available and relevant to Austinites who aren’t online today — an affordable Internet connection, access to devices, basic computer skills training, and opportunities to better understand how they can use the Web in their daily lives. HACA has brought together more than 20 national and local partners, including Google Fiber, to play a role in the program.

We started talking with HACA after the City of Austin selected its Booker T. Washington training center as a site to receive Google Fiber as part of our Community Connections program. That conversation, and the many that followed, demonstrated that HACA had an ambitious vision for a digital inclusion program — one that was deeply rooted in the often complex reasons that people weren’t yet online — and that there was a natural way that Google Fiber could help.

Google Fiber will bring state of the art infrastructure to Austin's public housing; we will provide a free fiber connection to any existing HACA property in a neighborhood that meets its signup goal to get Google Fiber. If a family in one of these properties signs up for our Basic Service, they get an in-home Internet connection at today’s basic broadband speeds, free for ten years after construction, They can also upgrade and pay for gigabit speeds anytime. In addition, we’re providing computers to HACA education and training centers, as well as funding Austin Free-Net, a local nonprofit, to provide digital literacy training in HACA properties. Along with the contributions of dozens of other partners — foundations, corporations, educational institutions — this support can advance HACA’s vision to bring more of its residents online.

Google Fiber is making a long-term investment in each city where we build — including Austin, where digital inclusion is a citywide priority. Here and in any city, our approach is shaped by potential partners, the cues of local leaders, and the unique needs of residents. Unlocking the Connection is the result of the collaboration and commitment of the Austin community — it’s driven by HACA’s vision, supported by local leaders, and engages the talents of community organizations. We’re proud to work hand-in-hand with all of these partners to help create a more connected Austin.

Posted by Parisa Fatehi-Weeks, Community Impact Manager, Google Fiber Austin

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A super-fast Internet connection can have a big impact on unlocking new possibilities for small businesses. From the start, small business owners have told us that they want Google Fiber to help them move faster, work better together, reach new parts of the world without boarding a plane, and save time for the important things—like growing their business.

Now we’re taking another step to speed up the Internet for small businesses—today, we’re kicking off an Early Access Program for Google Fiber for Small Business in select areas of central Kansas City. And whether a business uses their connection to move to the cloud, get closer to customers on Hangouts, or bring more transactions online, we’re excited to see what happens when Kansas City businesses say farewell to slow speeds and hello to all the tools and technologies that they need to grow.

The Early Access Program is available today in a handful of fiberhoods in Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO. Small businesses in these areas can sign up for a gigabit Internet connection and be among the very first businesses to get Google Fiber. Though not all areas of central Kansas City are open for signups just yet, we’ll keep you posted as we expand. Small businesses can visit our website to get more details, register for email updates, and be the first to know when they can sign up.

First fiberhoods with Early Access for small businesses in Kansas City, KS

First fiberhoods with Early Access for small businesses in Kansas City, MO

Earlier this year, we started a pilot in Kansas City to learn more about what business owners need. We heard from documentary filmmakers, flower shops, web development agencies, and more. All of these small businesses have a lot of ideas on how a faster Internet connection could speed up their entire business — we can’t wait to see what they do with Google Fiber.

We know that small businesses play a big part in Provo and Austin, too. And while we don’t have specific plans for small businesses in other cities right now, we’ll be sure to share updates when we can.

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At the corner of 41st and Main Street, a Kansas City Starbucks is teeming with people writing emails, streaming music, sharing videos, and more. Now that same Starbucks—one of the busiest in Kansas City—is the first to be connected directly to Google Fiber, so anyone visiting the store can get super-fast Internet with their Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Kansas City now has the fastest Wi-Fi at any Starbucks in the U.S.
At this Starbucks, visitors can connect to supercharged Wi-Fi through their wireless devices, so they can skim the morning headlines while they order or enjoy a cup of joe. There are also new community tables, which have Chromebooks wired directly to Google Fiber, as well as built-in wireless charging technology to power up devices. With these new connections, there’s plenty of bandwidth for everyone to search, stream, and share—without the loading bars or buffering.

Community tables come equipped with Chromebooks connected directly to Google Fiber
Along with fast Internet for the whole community, this store features a digital take on the Starbucks community board, so anyone can find and share local news, upcoming events, special offers and more. If you live nearby or are passing through town, be sure to swing by 41st and Main Street and check it out.

The digital community board makes it easy to find and share local news and events
This isn’t the first time Google and Starbucks have teamed up to bring high-quality Wi-Fi to Starbucks patrons. Last year, Google and Starbucks announced a new effort to bring speedy Wi-Fi access to 7,000 Starbucks stores across the U.S—we’re well on our way, with more than half of locations connected. Connecting this Kansas City Starbucks to Google Fiber is a next step to bring more people an extra shot of Internet speed.

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