In Durham, hundreds of public housing residents to get free Google fiber | News

In Durham, hundreds of public housing residents to get free Google fiber


  • Chris Williams

When Google fiber announced it would build a high-speed internet network in the Triangle, social justice advocates were concerned about how low-income residents could afford it.

Now we know Google Fiber will offer free monthly home Internet service to residents of Mcdougald Terrace, the largest public housing community in Durham. The city is is one of 27  selected for ConnectHome, a program launched by the Obama administration to expand broadband Internet access, especially to low-income households.

Julián Castro, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, will visit Durham this afternoon to announce the city’s participation in the ConnectHome program. Castro, along with Mayor Bill Bell, will speak at the T.A. Grady Recreation Center, 531 Lakeland St., which is near Mcdougald Terrace.

A new report released today by the Council of Economic Advisors shows that when the head of a household has not graduated from high school the home is less likely to have internet access. Only 44 percent of those households do, compared to 90 percent of households lead by someone with a college degree. 

See related PDF digital_divide_report.pdf

These tech disparities are important because they often lead to other inequality: in education, health care, employment and civic engagement.

Other statistics:
Eighty-seven percent of households headed by Asians have Internet access
For whites, that figure is 77 percent
Hispanics, 67 percent
African-Americans, 61 percent
Native Americans, 58 percent

That gap widens when only broadband Internet, now defined as at least 25 megabytes per second, is considered. (But very few American households, regardless of race or income, has access to fiber.)

In Durham, Google has also committed to working with community organizations to provide computer labs and digital literacy programs to low-income residents, especially those with K–12 students. GitHub will provide $250,000 to equipment and digital literacy training to HUD residents in ConnectHome cities.

Castro has also announced that HUD is beginning the rule making progress that requires all federally funded housing and rehabilitation projects to support broadband Internet connectivity.

The Durham Housing Authority is in the midst of overhauling many of its properties, especially those that are more than 40 years old. Eventually, the 360-unit Mcdougald Terrace, built in 1953, will be demolished

Cities that receive Choice Neighborhood grants, such as Durham, will have the flexibility to spend a part of that money on local broadband projects.

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