Google Fiber on Wednesday announced free gigabit Internet service to residents of selected public housing projects connected to its fiber optic service in U.S. cities.
The program was launched at West Bluff, an affordable housing community in Kansas City, Mo., where 100 homes have been connected to Google Fiber. Across the Kansas City area, Google is now working with affordable housing providers to connect as many as nine properties that could reach more than 1,300 local families.
Google described the program as an extension of its work with ConnectHome, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Obama administration.
HUD Secretary Julian Castro said in a conference call that under the ConnectHome program, up to 200,000 children in affordable housing in 28 different U.S. cities are expected to be connected to fast Internet. Google Fiber is expected to be a part of those connections in Atlanta, Durham, N.C., Nashville and San Antonio, he said.
There will be no cost to local housing authorities, their residents or HUD. Google will absorb the costs of the free service and there will be no fees or contract.
The Kansas City area was the first Google Fiber location in the nation, starting in 2012. Today, the service is available in two other cities -- Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah -- with work under way in six others. Normally, residents in Kansas City pay $70 a month for Google Fiber fast Internet service.
In addition to free Internet, eligible residents will work with ConnectHome partners like Connecting for Good and Surplus Exchange to be able to purchase discounted computers and learn new computer skills, Google said.
In Austin, Google plans to complement free Internet service for some families with investments in computers labs and digital literacy classes. Plans for other cities were not announced.
"We plan to bring gigabit Internet to select affordable housing in all of our Fiber cities," Dennis Kish, vice president of Google Fiber, wrote in a blog. "The U.S. has some of the most expensive broadband in the world, while lagging far behind other countries in Internet speeds," he added. "And for families in affordable housing, cost can be one of the biggest barriers to getting online."
Early in its rollout of Google Fiber in Kansas City, there was concern that not enough low-income residents were buying into the service. Meanwhile, government officials in both Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kans., hailed Google Fiber's arrival as a boost to business interest in the area, even as they have worked to reduce the digital divide.