broadbandUpdated later on July 15

A range of broadband providers – including Google Fiber, CenturyLink, Cox Communications, Suddenlink Communications and Vyve Broadband – have agreed to offer broadband Internet service at little or no charge to low-income people in 27 communities as part of a new initiative dubbed ConnectHome that President Obama is expected to announce later today. The program will be administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a blog post penned by a Google executive and published this morning.

According to press reports, ConnectHome aims to bring broadband to more than 275,000 low-income households, including nearly 200,000 children. Three other broadband providers also will participate, according to press reports.

The program also will include digital literacy training. The Google blog post noted, for example, that Google will partner with ConnectHome and local community groups to develop basic computer skills training and create computer labs to host training in all Google Fiber markets.

Additionally the American Library Association said libraries nationwide will provide “tools and training” to support ConnectHome.

It isn’t clear from information released so far whether any government funds will be contributed to the ConnectHome initiative or whether it will rely totally on the private market for support.

ConnectHome Pricing
Not every broadband provider planning to participate in ConnectHome has revealed pricing. But Cox said it will charge $9.95 a month for qualified customers and Google said its offering will be free. Google also noted that it will offer free service to people living in housing projects throughout its service territory, including markets that are not among the 27 ConnectHome markets. Neither Cox nor Google Fiber said what the data rate of their ConnectHome offering would be.

News reports did not include a listing of the 27 markets targeted for ConnectHome. But Google Fiber said the markets include four Google Fiber markets — Atlanta; Durham, North Carolina; Nashville and Kansas City. And Cox said four of its markets – Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Macon, Georgia; Meriden, Connecticut; and New Orleans — are included.

This is not the first time the Obama administration has tapped private industry to support a low-income broadband initiative. Previously the administration created the Connect2Compete program, which offers low-cost broadband to families with school-age children who qualify for the school lunch program. The new program is different in that it includes households without school-age children.

Obama is expected to announce ConnectHome in Durant Oklahoma late this afternoon. Telecompetitor will post an update at that time.

Update- The White House issued a fact sheet indicating that Sprint, Pine Telephone and Cherokee Communications also will provide broadband service in the ConnectHome program. Additionally a wide variety of organizations, including Best Buy, are contributing resources to the program. See the White House fact sheet for further information, including the 27 communities initially targeted. The program also targets the Choctaw Tribal Nation.

Image courtesy of flickr user Sean MacEntee.

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