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A Great Step Forward in Bridging the Digital Divide

Jul 7, 2015
EC from DC

This week was a big week for our efforts to bridge the digital divide in Missouri’s Fifth District. President Obama in coordination with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that they have chosen Kansas City to participate in their new digital inclusion program that they rolled out this week. The program is ConnectHome and it aims to increase broadband Internet access for children and families who live in HUD-assisted housing. Kansas City is one of 28 communities across the country that will have the opportunity to participate in this initiative.

Back in May, I sent a letter to HUD Secretary Julian Castro urging him to select Kansas City as one of the demonstration project cities, and I am grateful that he did. The digital divide in Missouri’s Fifth District is, at its heart, an issue that only perpetuates existing social and economic inequality.

It is also my hope that in the future Secretary Castro will allow housing agencies to treat the Internet as a utility, and thus be eligible for a utility allowance. Though this was not included in this week’s announcement, public housing agencies are able to apply for waivers and therefore treat the Internet like a utility. Rest assured, I will continue to work to give public housing agencies this authority.

Secretary Castro and I agree that access to high-speed Internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity in our current global economy. Access to the Internet is critical for job searching and for continuing the education of our young people. Over the last few years, our community has seen a drastic transformation in internet affordability and speed. But with as many as 25% of our residents lacking internet access at home, it is clear that we need to do more to ensure that everyone can utilize these benefits. Secretary Castro’s announcement is a welcome step in the right direction towards bridging the digital divide.

ConnectHome creates collaboration between local governments, members of private industry, nonprofit organizations, and others to produce solutions that work best for local communities. HUD is joining forces with eight Internet Service Providers nationwide. They will aim to break down barriers to broadband access by:

  • underwriting costs of attaining high-speed service;
  • providing computer and Internet training;
  • and assisting with infrastructure in HUD-assisted housing and buildings so all of this is possible.

This announcement this week is a win for all of Kansas City and will move our efforts to bridge the digital divide forward. More information on the ConnectHome program is available here.

I wish you all a pleasant weekend, and I hope you will join me at 18th and Vine on Sunday evening for the free Summer Time on the Vine concerts. See you at 6pm!

Warmly,

Cleaver
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Emanuel Cleaver, II
Member of Congress