Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. to Give Web Access to Public Housing ; Obama Program Seeks to Improve Opportunities for Low-Income Groups

Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. to Give Web Access to Public Housing ; Obama Program Seeks to Improve Opportunities for Low-Income Groups

Article excerpt

The sweeping effort is aimed at catching up the many low-income Americans who have been left behind in an increasingly technology- driven nation.

The Obama administration announced on Wednesday a program to connect thousands of public housing residents across the country to the Internet at low prices or free. The sweeping effort is aimed at catching up the many low-income Americans who have been left behind in an increasingly technology-driven nation.

Over all, 275,000 households, including 200,000 children, will be eligible for free Internet connections or, in some areas, broadband hookups that cost as little as $9.95 a month.

The announcement was timed to the release of a report on Wednesday from the White House Council of Economic Advisers that highlights how some Americans, especially low-income families with children, do not benefit from high-speed broadband, despite the rapid uptick in Internet usage in the United States in recent years. Nearly two-thirds of the lowest-income households own a computer, but less than half have a home Internet subscription, according to the report.

"While many middle-class U.S. students go home to Internet access, allowing them to do research, write papers and communicate digitally with their teachers and other students, too many lower- income children go unplugged every afternoon when school ends," a news release about the report said. "This 'homework gap' runs the risk of widening the achievement gap, denying hardworking students the benefit of a technology-enriched education."

The pilot program, ConnectHome, will be carried out in different forms in public housing units in 27 cities and in one tribal area, largely focusing on households with school-age children. The program will involve city officials; eight Internet providers, like Cox Communications; at least one university; and even Best Buy, which will offer computer training to residents in some cities.

In Macon, Ga., the program will offer residents the chance to buy tablets already loaded with educational software for $30 each. Other communities will receive free help with SAT preparation and free technical support. Google Fiber will offer free Internet connections to some public housing residents in Atlanta; Durham, N.C.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Nashville.

Mr. Obama planned to announce the ConnectHome program during an appearance in Durant, Okla., near the Choctaw Nation, a tribal area where 425 public housing residents will be eligible to receive low- cost Internet connections and free digital literacy classes. …

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