Monday, December 11, 2017

Ohio Chosen for President’s ‘ConnectHome’ Low-Income Broadband Initiative

Ohio is among 19 states chosen for President Barack Obama’s ConnectHome initiative to provide broadband Internet to more than a quarter million families living in assisted housing. The $70 million pilot will begin with two dozen cities and one Indian nation and will build on the administration’s $10 billion ConnectED initiative focused on K-12 students.

Under ConnectHome, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is partnering with nonprofit advocates for Internet connectivity to reach more than 275,000 low-income households in Cleveland and 26 other cities selected through a competitive process. Ohio’s is the only community in the upper Midwest/Great Lakes region outside of Rockford, IL.

A 10-page brief, “Mapping the Digital Divide,” released by the Council of Economic Advisors Wednesday in conjunction with ConnectHome, finds many American children trail their peers in Internet access outside the classroom and school library.

"While nearly two-thirds of households in the lowest-income quintile own a computer, less than half have a home Internet subscription. 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,” the White House said in a statement. “This 'homework gap' runs the risk of widening the achievement gap, denying hardworking students the benefit of a technology-enriched education."

The president traveled to Durant, OK, site of the Choctaw Nation, Wednesday to announce the ConnectHome pilot.

The administration said ConnectED, launched in 2013, is currently on track to provide 99 percent of K-12 students access to broadband Internet in the next five years.

Nonprofits working with HUD to expand broadband access include EveryoneOn and US Ignite, which have been working with private- and public-sector leaders to build the local partnerships that will provide Internet connectivity, technical assistance, digital literacy training, and computer hardware to public housing units.

“Mayors from Boston to Durham, and from Washington, D.C. to Seattle, have committed to reallocate local funds, leverage local programming, and use regulatory tools to support this initiative and the expansion of broadband access in low-income communities,” the administration said.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro anchored a conference call with Director Jeff Zients of the White House National Economic Council Wednesday to expand on the ConnectHome initiative.

“We have to do everything we can to ensure America remains the undisputed land of opportunity,” Castro said of the new round of federal spending.

“We have to invest in our economic future. In this day, that means Internet access,” added Zients.

“There are places where Internet access can be a game changer, but it hasn’t kept up,” he said. “Many kids have still been left behind at home.”

Private firms participating in ConnectHome include Google Fiber, Cox Communications, CenturyLink, Sprint, Cherokee Communications, Best Buy, GitHub, College Board and Khan Academy, among others. The latter two will offer students and families free, online SAT practice materials and contribute $200,000 over three years to digital literacy and college readiness programs in Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York City, San Antonio, Washington D.C., and the Choctaw Nation.

Nonprofit partners include the American Library Association, James M. Cox Foundation, 80/20 Foundation, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, among others.

States and communities chosen for the pilot include Georgia (Atlanta, Albany and Macon); Tennessee (Memphis and Nashville); Louisiana (Baton Rouge and New Orleans); California (Los Angeles and Fresno); Massachusetts (Boston and Springfield); New Jersey (Camden and Newark); New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD; Meriden, CT; Tampa, FL; Durham, NC; Little Rock, AR; Kansas City, MO; San Antonio, TX; Denver, CO; Seattle, WA; District of Columbia; Rockford, IL; and Cleveland.

More on ConnectHome can be found at http://connecthome.hud.gov/.

“Mapping the Digital Divide” can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/wh_digital_divide_issue_brief.pdf.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on July 15, 2015.  Copyright 2015 Hannah News Service, Inc.


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