Just seven months after President Barack Obama and HUD Secretary Julián Castro launched ConnectHome, the first families in HUD-assisted housing are getting online.
“America’s challenge in this 21st century is to remain the world’s undisputed land of opportunity,” says Secretary Castro. “By accelerating broadband adoption, ConnectHome will provide more Americans with the same high-speed access to knowledge and opportunity that millions of people already enjoy.”
For Stacie, a mother of four in Little Rock, AR, having access to affordable high-speed Internet at home means saving the hour-long roundtrip bus ride to the library, and having access to a tablet means no longer having to wait in line to access a computer. With digital literacy training through a partnership between the city’s Metropolitan Housing Alliance and BestBuy’s Geek Squad, Stacie is gaining 21st century job-ready skills.
For Stacie’s four children, ConnectHome means being able to research and apply for college and federal financial aid, discovering recipes that support healthy eating habits, and learning multiplication tables in a way that is tailored to her son’s special needs.
“I can now get on the Internet and am able to do everything that everyone else is doing,” Stacie says. “Being a single mother, I have had to put my dreams on hold, but ConnectHome is helping me to start working toward my dreams.”
Stacie isn’t alone. Currently, less than half of our nation’s poorest families have a wired Internet subscription at home, and more than 60 million Americans lack basic digital literacy, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Our nation’s digital divide is particularly severe among many of the people HUD serves, including families earning less than $25,000 per year and communities of color.
Led by HUD, ConnectHome provides a platform for community leaders, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and private industry to join together and produce locally-tailored solutions for narrowing the digital divide. Little Rock’s ConnectHome effort is being led by Jada Johnson with the Metropolitan Housing Alliance.
After attending a White House convening for ConnectHome, Jada organized digital training sessions for residents and brought together stakeholders, such as the City of Little Rock, GitHub and the Clinton Foundation, for a community-wide signup event in February. At the event, Stacie and other residents learned how to access the Internet, digital devices, and the digital literacy training necessary to get online. “I’m glad that I had the opportunity to share this experience with the residents,” Jada says. “This is something they wanted to have for a long time.”
In July 2015, ConnectHome launched across the country in 27 demonstration cities and the Choctaw Nation, and its impact is spreading as stakeholders begin to offer free and low-cost services. National Internet providers taking part in ConnectHome include CenturyLink, Cox Communications, Google Fiber, Sprint, and now Comcast.
ConnectHome has launched in 28 demonstration communities across the United States.
ConnectHome communities are currently in the process of completing the first round of broadband expansion this summer, with more families set to be connected throughout the year. Learn more about ConnectHome by visiting us at ConnectHome.hud.gov.
Lourdes Castro Ramirez is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public and Indian Housing.