Google Fiber today said it will provide free Internet access at gigabit speeds to residents in affordable housing.
Google Fiber was already providing free Internet in public housing, but speeds were limited to 5Mbps downloads and 1Mbps uploads.
Today’s announcement said that’s being pushed up to 1Gbps downloads and uploads, a speed that normally costs $70 a month. The free gigabit Internet is being rolled out first to West Bluff, a property in Kansas City, Missouri. Google partnered with the Housing Authority of Kansas City on the project.
“We’ve wired all 100 homes with Fiber, and families can sign up today to access the Internet at up to 1,000Mbps,” the Google Fiber announcement said. “Across Kansas City, we’re working with local affordable housing providers to connect up to nine properties, reaching more than 1,300 families in the metro area.”
The company said that it will eventually duplicate the program in the other cities where it provides Internet service. Right now that’s just Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah, but Google is planning an expansion to six additional metro areas and says it is considering deployment in 11 others.
“We’re bringing gigabit speed Internet to residents in select public housing properties in all of our Fiber cities—for free,” a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail to Ars.
Google Fiber’s standard pricing actually includes one speed tier without monthly service payments. Any customer in a Google Fiber area can get 5Mbps/1Mbps service without paying anything except a $300 construction fee that can be paid up-front or spread over 12 months.
The free Internet in public housing doesn’t require residents to pay any equipment or installation fees.
Google is working with local groups such as Connecting for Good and Surplus Exchange in Kansas City to offer discounts on refurbished tablets, laptops, and phones. Google also said it plans to invest in computer labs and classes that will teach residents skills needed to effectively use the Internet.
“The US has some of the most expensive broadband in the world, while lagging far behind other countries in Internet speeds,” Google said. “And for families in affordable housing, cost can be one of the biggest barriers to getting online.”
Another notable program that provides Internet access to poor people is Comcast’s Internet Essentials, which sells 10Mbps service for $10 a month. Comcast created the program to comply with conditions imposed by the government on its acquisition of NBCUniversal. Comcast originally committed to offer the service for three years but has extended it indefinitely and signed up about half a million families.