Google is bringing free gigabit Internet service to all public housing properties connected to Google Fiber, the company announced Wednesday. In partnership with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s ConnectHome initiative, Google announced it has already wired 100 homes in the Kansas City neighborhood of West Bluff, and plans to expand the program to other cities and support it with educational opportunities for local residents.
The partnership between Google Fiber and ConnectHome began delivering free Internet access to public housing communities last summer, with connections that topped out at 5 Mbps downloading and 1 Mbps uploading. That connection speed is free for all Google Fiber customers (after paying an initial fee), but the Gigabit connections Google Fiber will soon be offering to 1,300 families in metropolitan Kansas City normally cost $70 a month.
“The US has some of the most expensive broadband in the world, while lagging far behind other countries in Internet speeds,” said Google Fiber Vice President Dennis Kish in a blog post. “And for families in affordable housing, cost can be one of the biggest barriers to getting online. Alongside our ConnectHome partners, we’re proud to make some of the fastest Internet more available and accessible to those who need it most.”
Google also announced it will work with local partners to deliver computer labs and digital literacy classes. ConnectHome partners like Connecting for Good and Surplus Exchange will also offer skills training and discounted services to participating communities.
Google Fiber plans to bring gigabit connections to all of the cities it services eventually, though Google Fiber has only launched in 3 of its 9 selected cities so far. The company lists 11 other potential Google Fiber cities, so the number of people who could eventually receive otherwise-inaccessible fast Internet service through the program is many thousands.
Google surely stands to gain users, and therefore eventually revenue, through the project, but its main value may be in preserving positive brand associations for the company. Hosting providers can also benefit from increased access to the internet as more users coming online will require domains, websites, and storage space.
Comcast extended its originally regulator-imposed Internet Essentials service in early 2015 to continue offering $10 a month connections to American households.