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This post is a part of our Pursuing Racial Justice and Equity series, which we kicked off last week. This series highlights the courageous and vital work happening across our Google Fiber and Google Fiber Webpass cities to fight systemic racism and create more just communities where everyone has the opportunity and the ability to thrive. Our first post comes to us from Joi Imobhio, Political Director for the Workers Center for Racial Justice in Chicago.


At the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) in Chicago, our work begins with organizing our community: majority-Black neighborhoods where residents experience ongoing racialized poverty, over-policing and criminalization. Under normal circumstances, we spend much of our time talking with constituents face-to-face about the challenges they are experiencing, and encouraging them to take action on those issues as part of WCRJ. 

COVID-19 has forced us to quickly adapt and find new ways to connect with our community. As the 2020 census and elections coincide with unprecedented public demand for racial justice, we can’t afford to slow down. The pandemic has only heightened our sense of urgency, as we insist upon action from elected officials to address the racial disparities exposed by the pandemic.

We feel fortunate to live in a time when so many effective technologies are available to us, allowing us to keep organizing while maintaining social distance. Black civic engagement is a key part of our work, and involves a year-round schedule of in-person trainings, educational sessions, town hall meetings, and door-to-door outreach. Thanks to the digital tools that we’ve been able to access — and the creativity of our members — WCRJ has continued these programs remotely since moving our work online in March. 

One of the tools that is empowering us in the COVID era is Outvote, a mobile app that allows us to reach a broad network of voters through friend-to-friend texting. Users who download the app can follow our policy and voter engagement campaigns, and receive notifications when we have new actions for them to take. This year we transformed our Forum for Safety and Liberation — usually held in August at a large venue — into a full Week of Action with daily assignments for our Outvote users. In just that week alone, our virtual allies sent 8,963 emails to elected officials, with over 100 new contacts participating. The impact was so great that we will likely add this approach in future years, whether or not COVID is a factor.

The power of digital organizing came into sharp focus in the run-up to Illinois’ March 2020 primary elections, which took place just days before the official shelter-in-place order. As residents came to understand the threat of the virus, many polling stations were closed due to shortages of volunteers. Confused residents were unsure of how to cast their ballots. As the city made arrangements for residents to vote at alternative locations, WCRJ was able to quickly disseminate this information to our constituents via Outvote and social media. 

Given the possibility of another wave of COVID-19 cases in the fall, we know that voters will likely experience new and unforeseen barriers to democracy this November. We are contingency planning for a variety of scenarios, and in all cases, we emphasize digital outreach as an effective means for helping constituents access the polls. We are excited to be expanding our work into the neighboring state of Wisconsin for the first time this year; and, with the help of these technologies, we plan to reach tens of thousands of Black voters there, in addition to over 150,000 people in Illinois.

From now until November, much of our work will be devoted to ensuring that voters understand the various options available to them this year, and that each person has created a plan for voting. However, we know that not everything will go according to plan. When unexpected barriers arise, tools like Outvote and social media platforms will allow us to rapidly provide the most up-to-date, accurate information to our contacts, helping us prevent the pandemic from disenfranchising Black voters. 

Posted by Joi Imobhio, Political Director, Workers Center for Racial Justice

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Back in February, we announced that we were no longer offering a traditional TV product to new customers. As we said then, the best TV is already online, and we’ve seen many of our customers opt for one of our streaming service partners when they sign up for their internet service. In fact, more than 84% of our customers use some sort of streaming service. Whether you are part of the 16% who haven’t yet found the right way to watch or you’re a seasoned streaming pro, we’ve put together some info on our website to help make it easier for you to find the best content for you.


The past few months have made the choice and control that streaming provides even more critical. With live sports at a trickle and new movies coming out online instead of in the theater, knowing how to find the content you want when you want it is essential. And that time is going up: our network saw around a 35% increase in traffic overall as people began to work and learn and live at home full time, and we also saw an increase in streaming traffic, with people watching earlier in the day and for longer periods of time. And as always, gigabit internet makes it easy to put any — or many — streaming services to work.

We’re continuing to work to make it easier to find the TV and video content you want with more streaming choices available for our internet customers. We’re thrilled to welcome Philo as a new streaming partner. Philo offers over 60 channels of live and on-demand TV for just $20 a month, providing yet another affordable way to watch your favorite shows. Philo joins YouTube TV and fuboTV as one of our streaming offerings, and we’re working to make it even easier to get the streaming options our customers want.

2020 has been a year of transition. How we watch TV and what we need to do it well has changed, And fast, reliable internet makes it possible.

Posted by Liz Hsu, Director, Product Strategy

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As students and their families across the U.S. begin a school year like no other, the contrast between the power of the internet and the depth of the digital divide has never been so pronounced.

A staggering 15 to 16 million students (30%) lack the internet or computer devices they need to access the education they deserve. 300,000 to 400,000 teachers (10%) can’t teach because they lack internet at home. Black, Latinx, and Indigenous/Native American households lack access at disproportionately higher rates, exacerbating long-standing inequities in education.

Google Fiber exists to help bring reliable internet to more people in communities across the country. Our team of Government and Community Affairs Managers exists to help advance digital access for the most underserved residents, who are disproportionately Black and Brown, in our communities. Since our earliest days, digital inclusion has been one of our central pillars, and we’ve now added a financial sponsorship program to support our partners doing racial justice work in Google Fiber and Google Fiber Webpass cities.

In our community partnerships, we think about all aspects of digital inclusion. For example, in our longtime partnership with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA), Google Fiber provides free in-home gigabit internet access to hundreds of public housing residents. Beyond that, and thanks to the leadership of HACA, the City of Austin, and Austin Community College, residents have access to digital literacy training, computer devices and tech support.

Across all of our Google Fiber cities, we have learned from challenges, invested in the digital equity ecosystem, and amplified the work of community organizations to help get our neighbors trained and connected. We are proud of this enduring work and the partnerships we have formed along the way.

But it isn’t enough. As we collectively face the intertwined impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and generations of systemic racism, we know we have much more to do.

The Black Lives Matter movement rightfully calls for more from companies that have the opportunity to change systems and influence their industries. Google made a commitment to improving racial equity both internally and externally. Google Fiber is aligning with that by committing resources to racial justice organizations like the Southern Center for Human Rights, Workers Center for Racial Justice, and Austin Justice Coalition across our Google Fiber and Webpass cities. As with our ongoing digital inclusion work, we’re working with local organizations with deep ties to their communities. The Google Fiber funds will support their racial justice work.

We also know we have work to do internally to live up to our values. In 2019, we adopted a commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity (EID) as one of our company’s core values. We knew we wouldn’t be able to fulfill our mission, succeed as a business or sufficiently champion our customers without it. Over a year ago, we convened a task force of cross-functional leaders to begin an internal systemic change process aimed at more deeply integrating EID into every aspect of our business — from our product offerings to our customer service approach to our internal HR systems. Systems change work is a long game, and it takes shared, accountable leadership.

While we want to move quickly, we also need to embed EID, brick by brick, within all aspects of our business and across all of our team leaders for our values to be realized. We are seeing progress in learning and engagement from people across our organization — and we are both daunted and heartened by the steps we have mapped out ahead.

Caption: Cross-functional group of leaders at November 2019 systems meeting (Not pictured: La'Naeschia O'Rear, Jenn Chang)

These internal and external efforts are only part of a longer journey. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring some of our local partners on this blog to highlight their work to bring racial justice and equity to their communities. And as we continue to advance digital inclusion and better connect communities, you can expect Google Fiber to be persistent in our pursuit of racial equity, within our workforce and in the way we do business in each of the cities we serve.

Posted by Parisa Fatehi-Weeks, Head of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Impact

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