White House Announces ConnectHome Initiative to Address the Homework Gap

The White House today announced ConnectHome, a new initiative to help provide high-speed Internet access, technical assistance, digital literacy programs and devices to students living in public and assisted housing. Initially, a pilot program will reach more than 200,000 children in 27 cities and one tribal nation.

In 2013, President Obama launched the ConnectED initiative, which, according to the White House press office, is "on track to connect 99 percent of K-12 students to high-speed Internet in their classrooms and libraries over the next five years," The ConnectHome initiative aims to help low-income students access high-speed Internet at home, too, in an effort to reduce the "homework gap."

"While many middle-class U.S. students go home to Internet access, allowing them to do research, write papers and communicate digitally with their teachers and other students, too many lower-income children go unplugged every afternoon when school ends," stated a fact sheet from the White House. "This 'homework gap' runs the risk of widening the achievement gap, denying hardworking students the benefit of a technology-enriched education."

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) selected communities for the ConnectHome pilot program based on "local commitment to expanding broadband opportunities; presence of place-based programs; and other factors to ensure all are well-positioned to deliver on ConnectHome," according to information from the White House. 

The communities selected for the pilot program are Albany and Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA; Boston and Springfield, MA; Camden and Newark, NJ; Choctaw Nation, OK; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Durham, NC; Fresno, CA; Kansas City, MO; Little Rock, AR; Los Angeles, CA; Macon, GA; Memphis and Nashville, TN; Meriden, CT; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Rockford, IL; San Antonio, TX; Seattle, WA; Tampa, FL; and Washington, DC.

HUD is collaborating with EveryoneOn and US Ignite to establish partnerships with nonprofit organizations and the private sector to deliver the services required for ConnectHome. Internet service providers participating in the program include Google Fiber, Cherokee Communications, Pine Telephone, Suddenlink Communications, Vyve Broadband, CenturyLink, Cox Communications and Sprint. 

Organizations offering technical training, digital literacy programs or devices include Best Buy, the James M. Cox Foundation, GitHub, College Board, Khan Academy, 80/20 Foundation, Age of Learning, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), American Library Association, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Durant Independent School District.

As part of the ConnectHome initiative, HUD will update its rules to require any of its new residential construction and substantial rehabilitation projects to include support for broadband Internet. HUD will also allow communities to spend portions of their Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grants on local high-speed Internet connectivity.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].