WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) commended Memphis’ selection as a participant in President Obama’s new ConnectHome initiative, which is aimed at accelerating broadband internet adoption by families and children through partnerships with local governments, private industry, non-profits, and other entities focused on tailoring internet access solutions to our community. Nationwide, both low-income and African-American households are significantly less likely to have internet access at home than other households. A large portion of Memphis’ lower-income residents live without access to any home computer and many rely on mobile phones for things the rest of us take for granted, like studying, looking for jobs, and shopping online to find better prices for consumer goods.
“Without internet access, Memphis students can fall behind in their studies, which hurts their chances of leading successful lives and also limits their ability to secure jobs as adults,” said Congressman Cohen. “President Obama’s new ConnectHome initiative will help bridge the digital divide in our city, and it will be even more effective if Memphis wins the $30 million Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant we are competing for right now.”
Roughly 60% of African-American households have internet access compared to almost 75% of all the nation’s households. Nearly two-thirds of lowest income households own a computer, but less than half have a home internet subscription. While many middle-class U.S. students access the internet at home, 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. This “homework gap” contributes to a widening achievement gap, denying hardworking students the benefit of a technology-enriched education.
ConnectHome is the next step in the President’s continued efforts to expand high speed broadband to all Americans and builds on his ConnectED initiative that 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. ConnectHome will help ensure that these students still have access to high-speed Internet once they are home and will initially reach over 275,000 low-income households – and nearly 200,000 children. Internet Service Providers, non-profits and the private sector will offer broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in assisted housing units.
Since the President took office, the private and public sectors have invested over $260 billion into new broadband infrastructure, and three in four Americans now use broadband at home. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is also taking major steps to provide communities across the nation tools to improve digital opportunity for its residents, including beginning rulemaking to ensure that HUD-funded residential construction and rehabilitation projects support broadband connectivity. Should Memphis be selected as a winner of the Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant competition announced by Congressman Cohen yesterday, HUD has stated Memphis will have the flexibility to spend portions of the grant on local broadband initiatives and associated connectivity enhancements