Public Housing Units Getting Free Internet at Speeds Higher Than Most Homes

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro campaigns with Hillary Clinton on Oct. 15, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Google Fiber and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have partnered to bring “ultra-high speed” 1 gigabit Internet to public housing units in many cities – a connection speed much faster than the average household in the United States.

West Bluff Townhomes in Kansas City, Mo., has become the first public housing development with a 1 gigabit or 1,000 mbps Internet connection through the ConnectHome Initiative. Google Fiber said the speed has been provided free of charge and at no cost to HUD.

According to the most recent State of the Internet report, the average U.S. Internet connection speed was 11.9 mbps.

Verizon Fios currently offers up to 500 mbps for a high monthly fee of $269.99 per month for residential Internet. Comcast offers a 2,000 mbps package for $299.99 per month. A Google Fiber 1,000 mbps speed costs $70 per month for those living in an area where the service is available. The service is currently limited with plans to expand to more states in the future.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who is on the list of likely Democratic vice presidential candidates and has been actively campaigning for Hillary Clinton, said the connection in the public housing units would be about 100 times faster than average connections in the U.S.

“In the coming months, we’ll bring this high-speed broadband to 1,300 public housing families in the Kansas City metro area,” he said.

HUD also announced that the gigabit speeds would eventually be available at HUD assisted and affordable housing in all fiber cities, including Atlanta, Durham, N.C., San Antonio and Nashville.

Castro said the high-speed connection would ultimately reach 200,000 children in 28 communities.

Dennis Kish, CEO of Google Fiber, said the public housing residents would not be charged any fees for the speed and would not have to sign a contract.

“The gigabit speeds are being offered to all of the residents who are in the public housing that we are connecting. We feel as though there is a rising tide that we can help create in our country by really reaching out to residents who do not have an opportunity to connect to the web and help reach that digital divide,” he said.

Kish was asked on a conference call why public housing would need such a fast connection other than for streaming movies on Netflix.

“The gigabit speed, we think, is the future of the Internet and we want to bring it to as many people as we possibly can. And we don’t think there’s any reason for providing a connection to these residents that should not be the fastest possible,” he said.

PJM asked Castro why both the department and Google Fiber decided to connect public housing units with a 1-gigabit speed for free when the rest of the country’s average Internet speech is much slower.

“We’re proud that public housing residents will be able to partake. I think at the end of the day it just means that everybody counts. We need to ensure that everyone, no matter if their families are of modest means, that they have the tools to compete in this 21st century global economy, so I applaud Google Fiber for stepping up and offering their top-level service,” he said.

Castro told reporters the only governmental expense has been a $50,000 investment to make the Internet connection ready.

“There’s no contract with Google Fiber,” he said.