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Google to offer free internet service in White House programme

Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 06:31
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Google Inc and other companies will offer free or low-cost Internet service to more than 275,000 low- income households as part of President Barack Obama's effort to expand US broadband service, the White House said.

[WASHINGTON] Google Inc and other companies will offer free or low-cost Internet service to more than 275,000 low- income households as part of President Barack Obama's effort to expand US broadband service, the White House said.

The programme, called ConnectHome, is designed to bridge the so-called digital divide between poorer residents in cities and their wealthier neighbors. Google will offer some residents of public housing communities free subscriptions to its Google Fiber service. Companies including Sprint Corp. and CenturyLink Inc. will offer free plans or prices as low as US$9.95 a month, according to a White House statement.

Companies and private groups have committed to spending US$70 million over the next few years on the new program, called ConnectHome, and a US$50 million federal grant will extend broadband to an the Choctaw Tribal Nation, Julian Castro, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

"Over half of lowest income Americans don't have Internet at home," Jeff Zeints, National Economic Council director, said during the call. "That's unacceptable." Obama will discuss the new programme during a Wednesday speech at a high school in Durant, Oklahoma. The president has made expanding broadband access a priority, pushing for more airwaves for mobile Internet access and greater funding for high-speed Internet in schools.

"While many middle-class US 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," according to a White House statement about the program.

A study released by the Council of Economic Advisors said that the use of the Internet in homes drops off significantly in communities with lower incomes. Affluent areas have adoption rates above 80 per cent, while those with lower median household incomes have rates of around 50 per cent.

As part of ConnectHome, businesses will provide digital literacy classes in communities, and HUD will require new public housing developments to support broadband, according to the White House statement.

ConnectHome will start as a test project in 27 cities and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, based in Durant.

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