Google unleashes free speedy Internet service on low-income homes

Google puts its money where its mouth is with a plan to provide public housing residents with free access to its 1 gigabit-per-second Fiber service.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

Google is lending a hand in communities where its ultra-fast Fiber broadband service is available.


A resident of a housing project in Kansas City and her son are among the first to receive gigabit Internet from Google Fiber at no cost.

The Mountain View, California, company said in a blog post Wednesday that it will give public housing residents free access to its Google Fiber broadband service. It's kicking off the effort in Kansas City, where Google first deployed the all-fiber network in 2011.

Google already provides free service to the poor in Austin, Texas. But the speed offered there for free is lower than the 1 gigabit-per-second connection it provides to its paying customers and will be providing to low-income residents in Kansas City.

Google charges $70 for the 1Gbps service, which is 100 times faster than the typical home broadband connection. The offer of free high-speed Internet takes one burden off the shoulders of the poor.

"For low income families, access to the Internet can mean the difference between thriving or falling behind," Dennis Kish, vice president of Google Fiber, said in a blog post. "[But] for families in affordable housing, cost can be one of the biggest barriers to getting online."

The announcement makes good on a promise that Google made last year when it signed up to be a part of President Obama's ConnectHome initiative, which is designed to bring high-speed broadband access to over 275,000 low income households across the US. In July, Google committed to lighting up broadband in several cities, including Atlanta, Durham, North Carolina, Kansas City, Missouri and Nashville. Today's announcement goes beyond its earlier commitment by promising free 1Gbps access.

Google said it will ultimately serve as many as 1,300 households in Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, with a free 1Gbps subscription from Google Fiber. It plans to expand the offer to "select" public housing buildings in every city where Google Fiber operates, it said in the blog.

While many experts agree that a 1Gbps connection is overkill for average broadband users, it is an aspirational benchmark that shows broadband providers are willing to push the limits of technology to get consumers the highest speeds.

Those speeds can't come soon enough. The Federal Communications Commission last year said service at speeds of 25Mbps constituted true broadband. With the average speed at 10Mbps, a lot of folks aren't yet getting broadband.

A 1 gigabit connection, meanwhile, will let you download an entire high-definition video in less than two minutes. And you can stream at least five high-definition videos at the same time without buffering, and still have enough bandwidth to email and browse the Internet.

Getting all Americans online is a key goal of the Obama administration, which sees Internet access as a way to help improve education for school-age children and provide new opportunities to job seekers, who increasingly need access to the Internet to apply for jobs.