Google today announced its participation in Unlocking the Connection, a new initiative by the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) to “help close the digital divide for the 4,300 people who live in public housing.” The company promises to give Austin’s public housing residents free Google Fiber connections for 10 years.
Unlocking the Connection’s goal is to make the web more available and relevant to Austin citizens who aren’t online today. That includes an affordable Internet connection, access to devices, basic computer skills training, and opportunities to better understand how the Web can help them in their daily lives. Google Fiber is one of 20 national and local partners in the program.
Here are the pertinent details:
Google Fiber will bring state of the art infrastructure to Austin’s public housing; we will provide a free fiber connection to any existing HACA property in a neighborhood that meets its signup goal to get Google Fiber. If a family in one of these properties signs up for our Basic Service, they get an in-home Internet connection at today’s basic broadband speeds, free for ten years after construction.
Google Fiber Basic Service, which provides up to 5Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds, is normally free. It does, however, require a one-time $300 construction fee (or $25 per month for a year). That’s the part Google is waiving here, though the company notes families will be able to upgrade to gigabit speeds at any time by subscribing ($70 per month).
Google also plans to provide computers to HACA education and training centers, though it didn’t say what type (we’re guessing Chromebooks) or how many. Finally, the company will be funding Austin Free-Net, a local nonprofit that offers digital literacy training in HACA properties.
Google has previously hinted that its Fiber program is much more than just an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Investments like the ones announced today certainly add credibility to that claim.