Google Fiber recently announced plans to provide their Internet service to public housing communities for free. The first community to receive this service is West Bluff in Kansas City, home to 100 families. An additional nine communities in Kansas City will receive the same service, in total more than 1,300 families.
Google Fiber’s plans to provide free Internet are part of a White House initiative launched in 2015 called ConnectHome, which seeks to close the digital divide in the United States. Despite the move in schoolwork and job searches to digital, an estimated 34 million Americans are still without Internet.
A White House release stated that “ConnectHome is the next step in the President’s… 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 ensures these children will still be able to access the Internet when they are at home.
Though many public housing communities do have Internet access, that access is often slow and unreliable. Google Fiber is the first company to offer gigabit speeds to these communities free of charge. A gigabit Internet connection is 10x faster than Ethernet, allowing recipients to download the equivalent of an HD movie in just seven seconds.
Many Americans take Internet access for granted, relishing in Netflix streaming and web-surfing. However, to those in the public housing communities set to receive Google Fiber, there are other motivations to be connected. Children will be able to, for the first time, do homework from home. Adults will be able to apply for jobs remotely.
The prospect of connecting hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to the fastest available Internet in the country is undoubtedly noble, but quite costly. According to the Washington Post, at the current cost of subscription, Google is giving away $1 million worth of Internet access — to Kansas City residents alone.
But this move isn’t an entirely altruistic gesture. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, will be seeing an increase in profits as more Americans are connected through Google Fiber. Google’s primary business is search and advertising, and the more people are connected the more people will be using Google search and its other services.
The Washington Post also pointed out that Google Fiber itself is a significant moneymaker for Alphabet. According to a statement made by Alphabet last month, Google Fiber brought in much of the revenue for Alphabet’s “other bets” category, which includes the driverless car project and an experimental drone delivery service.
As the world continues to shrink to the size of a computer screen, access to reliable Internet becomes increasingly important. With Google Fiber vowing to connect the poorest of the poor, the economic gap between rich and poor will begin to shrink. The convenience many Americans are familiar with will spread to the remaining 10% of disconnected Americans.