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November 20, 2014

Unlocking the Connection for Austin’s public housing residents

  • , community impact

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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