WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama set a goal of bringing high-speed Internet to most schools by 2017. Now he's promoting a new program to help close the digital divide even further by bringing that faster Internet to more people, particularly students who live in public and assisted housing.
Obama on Wednesday was announcing a pilot program under which the public, private and nonprofit sectors will work together to provide high-speed Internet and digital devices to more families at a lower cost, the White House said.
ConnectHome will begin in 27 cities and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, where Obama was making the announcement.
It's the second dose of attention that Obama has paid the Choctaw Nation, which is the nation's third-largest Native American tribe with about 200,000 members.
Last year, the president designated the Choctaw Nation as a federal "Promise Zone," making it eligible for tax incentives and grants to help fight poverty.
The White House said Obama's school-based Internet program, ConnectEd, is on track to connect 99 percent of K-12 students to high-speed Internet in their classrooms and libraries by 2017. The new program aims to help less privileged students, as well as their families, access the Internet and continue learning at home.
Housing Secretary Julian Castro said Wednesday less than half of the poorest households have a home Internet subscription, but that most college applications are now submitted online and more than 80 percent of job openings at Fortune 500 companies are posted on the Web.
He said families cannot thrive without 21st century tools.
Federal money is not expected to be spent on the program, beyond a $50,000 Agriculture Department grant to the Choctaw Nation, officials said.
The 27 cities the Department of Housing and Urban Development selected for ConnectHome are: Albany, Georgia; Atlanta; Baltimore; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Boston; Camden, New Jersey; Cleveland; Denver; Durham, North Carolina; Fresno, California; Kansas City, Missouri; Little Rock, Arkansas; Los Angeles; Macon, Georgia; Memphis, Tennessee; Meriden, Connecticut; Nashville, Tennessee; New Orleans; New York; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia; Rockford, Illinois; San Antonio; Seattle; Springfield, Massachusetts; Tampa, Florida; and the District of Columbia.
Obama was spending part of Thursday in Oklahoma, continuing a weeklong focus on making the criminal justice system fairer.
He planned to meet Thursday with law enforcement officials and inmates during a historic tour of the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security facility west of Oklahoma City that holds about 1,300 male offenders. "I will be the first sitting president to visit a federal prison," Obama said in a speech Tuesday to the NAACP meeting in Philadelphia.
El Reno once housed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
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