Google Fiber on Wednesday said it will bring its high-speed Internet service to residents of all public housing properties it connects to, at no cost to the housing authority or to residents.
The technology giant said in a blog post that it was launching the service Wednesday in Kansas City, where it has wired 100 townhomes in a housing authority property there.
Google Fiber announced plans last year to bring its high-speed service to Charlotte and is in the process of building out its network. It hasn’t said when the service will be available.
Google said it plans to bring gigabit Internet service that is 100 times faster than normal broadband to select affordable housing locations in all cities where it has networks. It also plans to invest in computer labs and digital literacy classes, the company said.
The company didn’t specify Charlotte locations that will receive the service, but said it’s working with the Charlotte Housing Authority to assess locations as it designs and constructs its network.
“It’s our intent to serve all of those properties that we can,” said Erica Swanson, Google Fiber’s head of community impact programs, in a call with reporters. “That means looking at where can we reach a lot of families and children.”
Google Fiber has told Charlotte officials it expects to install service for the whole city, but the company’s initial focus has been a swath of territory from northeastern Charlotte to south of uptown. In June, Charlotte officials said Google was likely 18 months away from serving its first customers and that the service wouldn’t be widely available at the beginning.
Charlotte leaders have emphasized the importance of digital inclusion since Google said in February 2014 that it was considering the city for the service. More than 28 percent of Charlotte residents do not have broadband access in their homes, according to Google Fiber.
When it rolled out service in Kansas City in 2012, Google came under criticism when the company’s registration process initially resulted in higher-income, white neighborhoods meeting the threshold for service, while lower-income, predominantly black neighborhoods did not. That led to a door-to-door push by city leaders and community advocates to sign up more residents.
Google has said it has learned from its Kansas City experience and that it is committed to narrowing the “Digital Divide.”
“For low-income families, access to the Internet can mean the difference between thriving or falling behind,” said Dennis Kish, who leads Google Fiber, in the reporter call.
The effort announced Wednesday is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s ConnectHome initiative that aims to speed up Internet availability to families with school-age children in public housing.
“We need to ensure that everyone ... has the tools to compete in this 21st century global economy,” HUD Secretary Julian Castro said on the call. “I applaud Google fiber for stepping up and offering their top-level service. I’m also proud of the other Internet service providers that are part of ConnectHome.”
Castro said Google Fiber is receiving no compensation for the project. The government’s expense for ConnectHome has been staff time and $50,000 for a connection for the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, he said.
AT&T on Wednesday said it’s also taking steps to expand Internet availability, including a discounted home Internet program that is set to begin in April for qualifying households. As part of a White House initiative, the company has also committed to provide 50,000 students in certain schools with $100 million of free mobile broadband access for educational devices.
Google Fiber part of “Other Bets”
Building Google Fiber networks is a big bet for Google parent Alphabet Inc. – and starting with the fourth quarter that’s how the company reports the project in its quarterly financial statements.
As part of a reorganization announced last summer, Alphabet now breaks out a segment called “Other Bets,” which includes Google Fiber and projects such as self-driving cars.
In 2015, this unit had an operating loss of $3.6 billion on revenue of $448 million. The rest of the Mountainview, Calif.-based company posted operating income of $23.4 billion on revenue of $74.5 billion, showing how advertising and other profitable units are supporting riskier initiatives.
After reporting higher revenue and profits this week, Alphabet vaulted ahead of iPhone maker Apple as the world’s most valuable company . Rick Rothacker