It’s Time to Bridge KC’s Digital Divide!

SEPTEMBER 12, 2012

Tags: Digital DivideEventsGoogle Fiber

With Google Fiber’s pre-registration rally behind us, we are very excited about all the “fiberhoods” that qualified for the service.  Kansas City residents rallied to support their low-income neighbors in efforts like the “Paint the Town Green” campaign which raised over $11,000 for this purpose.

The next big challenge is to get those who expressed an interest actually connected to Google Fiber.  This is especially true for people whose $10 pre-registration fee was paid by someone else. If they were not able to pay that small fee, even $25 a month for a year to pay the connection fees is a significant hurdle.

During the last six weeks, we were reminded of the fact that serious economic and digital literacy issues need to be overcome before thousands of Kansas City residents on both sides of the state line can be connected.  That’s what our organization is all about.

Connecting for Good is a Kansas nonprofit corporation that has 501(c)(3)  tax exempt status with the IRS.  We are committed to closing the Digital Divide in the Kansas City area so that all citizens, regardless of their incomes, have access to broadband Internet.

Our three-prong strategy to accomplish this is: Digital Literacy, Connectivity and Hardware.  So, these are the activities in which we will be engaged:

  1. Free or low cost broadband Internet connections: With Google Fiber’s launch, we will be focusing on assisting those who can’t pay the full $300 Google Fiber connection fee. This could mean paying some or all of the expense for low income people.  In addition, for low income communities such as public housing projects, we have a strategy to get them online using Wi-Fi from various available Inernet providers.  Our leadership includes individuals who work in IT and have actually installed several neighborhood Wi-Fi networks. We believe Wi-Fi is a very viable approach, especially with the increasing use of smartphones in minority communities.  Not only is it the only way many connect to the Internet, Wi-Fi used for phone calls can help those whose calling plans have limited minutes.

    At this time, we plan our first build out of a free community Wi-Fi network at the Rosedale Ridge low income housing project.  Our desire is for this to serve as a demonstration project for what we hope to bring to other low income neighborhoods across Kansas City. We are also hoping to begin discussions with the public housing authorities on both sides of the state line to see if similar projects can be done in the facilities they manage.

  2. Digital literacy training:  It will be at least a year before Google Fiber is brought to most low income Kansas City neighborhoods.  This means we have time to do a push to introduce people to broadband computing.  We want to encourage those with the resources to pay the$25.00 per month for the first year and Google Fiber’s offer of free 5 Mb service for an additional six years.  By providing hands on experiences with broadband Internet, we believe they will understand what can be done online and see the possibilities for themselves.   To accomplish this, we are developing a portable computer lab that can be setup in key locations in our targeted communities in order to introduce residents to the world of broadband computing.  A group of committed volunteers are already in place and we plan to connect with the libraries and other community institutions to conduct free training and awareness sessions.
  3. Providing hardware to low-income families: Thousands in our area have no PC at home and cannot take advantage of all the benefits of Internet connectivity. We will be seeking to obtain desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones for this purpose.  We were recently approached about receiving a significant donation of refurbished computers. We would like to offer them to low income residents at an extremely low price.  We are considering a policy of requiring those who get these PCs to complete a few sessions of the digital literacy training program.

We are still going to work to establish permanent E-community centers with the full 1G bandwidth for neighborhoods which will also offer super high-speed connections, training and can serve as virtual library branches.  The first will be set up in Rosedale Ridge in partnership with the Kansas City Urban Youth Center which is already involved with bringing services to the residents there.

Thanks everyone for all of your support.  We are looking for donors and volunteers to make this all happen.  If you want to get involved please complete our contact form.

Let’s close the digital divide in KC together!

Written by Tom Esselman

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