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Closing the digital divide: Public housing goes gigabit

Submitted by compassionatec… on March 18, 2016

"Council owned homes aren't often seen as being ahead of the technological curve but, in Salford, we realize technological developments are critical to creating vibrant communities, whilst ensuring the sustainability of regeneration.”

That comment comes from Paul Dennett, assistant mayor for innovation, growth and prosperity at Salford Council in Greater Manchester, UK. The Council recently began rolling out gigabit fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband service across its public housing – and extension of its digital skills campaign that aims to foster social inclusion by getting more residents online.

It's a trend we're seeing elsewhere, too. In the U.S., Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro is promoting a ConnectHome program to extend high-speed broadband access to 275,000-plus low-income households across the country. (See video below.)

Google is also rolling out gigabit Internet access to public housing residents in its Google Fiber cities. It's currently working with the local housing authority in Kansas City, Missouri to provide access to some 1,300 subsidized housing residents.

In Santa Monica, California, a pilot program is delivering free 1 gigabit broadband service at 10 of the city's affordable housing complexes. In addition, each complex will get at least one desktop computer in community rooms so kids whose families don't have broadband or computers can use them for homework.

Digital champions
The Salford, UK  installations are being handled by Hyperoptic, which describes as an urban FTTP pioneer. Residents will be able to choose from three service packages for their individual units; free 100 Mbps service will be available free in communal areas.

As part of the Salford initiative, digitally savvy residents can volunteer to assist neighbors who are less so. In return, they will receive training, an iPad and free broadband service, which they will be able to keep if they train more than 20 people a year.

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