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February 5, 2016

An update on our work to help narrow the digital divide

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This Wednesday, I watched families at the West Bluff public housing property sign up for home Internet service. It was a pivotal moment—many of these residents were coming online for the first time, and they were doing so with some of the fastest speeds available. West Bluff is just the first of many properties that will receive free gigabit Internet service through our commitment to serve public housing residents across our Fiber cities. These residents can use their superfast connection to finish homework, apply for jobs, or learn to code, all from home.

West Bluff residents signing up for free gigabit Internet in Kansas City this week.
With this program, we’re bringing the best service to the families that need it most. But roughly one-third of Americans, many of whom live outside public housing, still don’t have home broadband. That’s why we’re working with partners across our Fiber cities to meet the needs of those families, too—with programs like the Digital Inclusion Fellowship and the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund. We know there is no one-size-fits-all solution to closing America’s digital divide, so we’ll continue to tailor our work at the local level to address the unique needs of each community.

More people should have access to fast Internet. This year, we're exploring new ways to make that happen. In addition to bringing free gigabit Internet to select public housing, we’ll introduce a new affordable Internet option in some cities—a low-cost broadband connection that’s fast enough to make video calls and stream HD content. And by offering upload speeds that match download speeds, people will have the opportunity to become web creators and truly make the most of being online.

This plan will be available in the most digitally divided areas we serve, determined using publicly-available data from the U.S. Census, FCC, and other sources. People in these neighborhoods won’t need to fill out applications, apply for eligibility, or pay any construction or installation fee. For those who are looking for more speed (but aren’t quite ready for our Gigabit service), we’ll also trial a new faster option at a lower price across our Fiber cities.

We’re also extending programs like Community Connections to all Fiber metros, providing free gigabit Internet to public places where people can access fast speeds outside the home, such as libraries, community centers, and nonprofits. Finally, we’re experimenting with different technical solutions to hook up residents in various neighborhoods who we previously couldn’t connect. We’ll share updates as those technologies are implemented.

Though our approach may differ city to city, one thing remains consistent: this work is not possible, or effective, without working closely with partners to bring more people online. Huge gratitude to: ConnectHome, Secretary Julian Castro and HUD, EveryoneOn, US Ignite, Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, the Housing Authority of Kansas City, and many more.

It takes a village to connect a village, and we’re looking forward to even more great programs and partnerships to come. For the latest on our work, check out our new community impact website.