The White House launched a new Housing and Urban Development program Wednesday to connect low-income households in dozens of communities to the Internet. Called "Connect Home," the initiative will provide low-cost or free Internet to thousands of people in 27 cities around the United States and, crucially, subsidized tablets and digital literacy training.
Partners in the new program include Best Buy, GitHub, College Board, Khan Academy, Age of Learning, the Public Broadcasting Service, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the American Library Association and Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Aside from a small grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Connect Home is based on private-sector commitments and foundation funding. That group notably includes Google, which has launched a program in all of its markets to provide $0 per month service to residents in select public housing. The 80/20 Foundation and the James M. Cox Foundation will also provide funding for some of the Connect Home" programs.
The White House hopes that Connect Home will help close the "homework gap" between low-income children and the rest of the population. According to a new report released Wednesday by the Council of Economic Advisers, approximately 55 percent of low-income children under 10 in the United States have no Internet access at home.
In introducing the Connect Home program in a speech to the Choctaw Nation, President Barack Obama made the salience of connectivity to modern life as clear as the fiber optic cable that delivers it to (some) residents.
"Even old folks like me know it’s important," he said. "In this digital age, when you can apply for a job, take a course, pay your bills, order a pizza, even find a date by tapping your phone, the Internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. You cannot connect with today’s economy without having access to the Internet."