The District of Columbia Housing Authority, U.S. Housing and Urban Development, Everyone On, and a host of federal, city, and private partners held a workshop to begin the process of extending affordable broadband access to low-income families in the District.
The brainstorming session brought public and private sector partners to the table on November 2 to build out D.C.’s ConnectHome program. DCHA is one of 28 cities selected by President Obama and HUD to increase educational and economic outcomes through connectivity to families living in HUD-assisted housing.
DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman told the group to claim the issue and “set a roadmap to move forward.”
“Fifty-four percent is the number of how many of our folks who do not have access to broadband,” Todman told the crowd at St. Elizabeth’s R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center. “To be successful, every single one of our youth must have access.”
Building on the Obama Administration’s goal to expand high speed broadband to all Americans, ConnectHome,is a program in which Internet Service Providers, non-profits and the private sector will offer very affordable broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and possibly devices for DCHA residents. ConnectHome also meshes well with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Connect.DC program.
“The prosperity that is growing certainly in our city, should be shared,” Bowser said. ConnectHome is one of several examples of “real policies, initiatives, and actions” that put D.C. residents on a pathway to the middle class.
“All children deserve a chance at the American Dream,” said HUD Secretary Julian Castro in a video.
HUD Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramirez said this initiative is about “creating connectivity, but also about creating an environment that fosters learning and people connecting with each other.”
DCHA has a goal of connecting 1,500 households by July 2016. The partnership agrees that D.C. should be a model for ConnectHome’s expansion to other communities.
The crowd learned that there are nearly 4,000 school-aged children living in DCHA properties, 72 percent of which are in Wards 6, 7, and 8. The group discussed how to overcome barriers and possible ways to finance the program to further decrease the cost to D.C. residents. They also identified some programming that would increase skills, provide educational content, and other services for the entire family that could be available at no cost.
The session was the first of many for partners to continue to work together to achieve ConnectHome’s goal.