Obama Extending Broadband Internet Access to Public Housing Residents

By Susan Jones | July 15, 2015 | 11:50 AM EDT

(AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The information superhighway is heading straight into taxpayer-subsidized housing.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday announced an initiative to extend affordable broadband access to families living in HUD-assisted housing.

The project, launching in 27 cities and one tribal nation, is called ConnectHome. (President Obama planned to discuss ConnectHome later Wednesday at the Choctaw Indian reservation in Oklahoma.)

Internet Service Providers, non-profits and the private sector will arrange broadband access as well as technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in public housing units.

“America’s challenge in this 21st century is to remain the world’s undisputed land of opportunity," said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “By expanding broadband adoption, ConnectHome will provide more Americans with the same high-speed access to knowledge and opportunity that millions of people already enjoy.”

High speed Internet access would bring news, information, social media and other messaging, including political outreach -- even Obamacare portals! -- into communities that until now have largely gone without such things.

According to HUD, one in four American families still do not access the Internet at home, particularly low-income families with children. HUD says ConnectHome aims to give students the same level of high-speed Internet at home that they have in their classrooms.

The first cities to participate in the program are: Atlanta, Albany and Macon in Georgia; Baltimore, Md.; Baton Rouge and New Orleans in La.; Boston and Springfield in Mass.; Camden and Newark in N.J.; Cleveland, Ohio; Denver, Colo.; Durham, N.C.; Fresno and Los Angeles in Calif.; Kansas City, Mo.; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis and Nashville in Tenn.; Meriden, Conn.; New York, N.Y.;  Philadelphia, Pa; Rockford, Ill.; San Antonio, Texas; Seattle, Wash; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.

Also chosen -- the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, where President Obama was announcing the initiative on Wednesday.

HUD says it selected those communities though a competitive process that considered "local commitment to expanding broadband opportunities."

Since 2009 when President Obama took office, the private and public sectors have invested over $260 billion in new broadband infrastructure, and as a result, three in four Americans now use broadband at home, HUD said.

To further narrow the digital divide, HUD plans to introduce a regulation requiring new HUD-funded residential construction (and substantial HUD renovation projects) to provide broadband Internet connectivity.
    
ConnectHome initially will reach more than 275,000 low-income households with nearly 200,000 children.

ConnectHome is the next step in Obama's effort to expand high speed broadband to all Americans. It builds on his earlier ConnectED initiative that aims to connect 99 percent of K-12 students to high-speed Internet in their classrooms and libraries over the next five years.