Solution Providers Ready To Pitch In On ConnectHome Broadband Initiative

Solution providers may soon help low-income Americans bring high-speed Internet access into their homes via a new government project aimed at expanding affordable broadband services throughout the country.

Several large carriers have recently signed on to the ConnectHome initiative, a U.S. government pilot program that will offer free or reduced-price high-speed broadband Internet connectivity to low-income households. Carriers will also be helped by tech companies with installation and training, and there's the potential for solution providers to get involved.

Last week, President Barack Obama traveled to Durant, Okla., to announce the initiative. ConnectHome will serve more than 275,000 low-income households within 27 cities and one tribal nation, according to a White House statement.

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Google, CenturyLink, Cox Communications and Sprint are among the companies that have joined the initiative so far. The carriers involved are splitting up coverage based on the locations of their existing networks. Google will offer connectivity via its Fiber broadband service for specific public housing residents in Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn., its Fiber-connected cities. Cox Communications will cover the New Orleans area. CenturyLink will offer its service for $9.95 per month for one year, and $14.95 for four years to federally subsidized housing residents in Seattle. Other cities being served include Los Angeles, Baltimore, Denver and Boston.

If contacted by their carriers, channel partners are often willing to lend a hand with special programs, such as ConnectHome, said Vince Bradley, president and CEO of World Telecom Group, a Malibu, Calif.- based carrier services master agent.

Some carriers will offer a special program around initiatives they are involved with, but since ConnectHome is still new, it’s yet to be seen if such programs will be available to the channel, Bradley said.

Carriers will be offering the connectivity, but they will most likely need local assistance installing the cabling and equipment in the homes, said Jeffrey Lee, vice president and chief technology officer for Carceron, an Atlanta-based IT managed services provider and Google partner.

"We would absolutely jump on board. The carriers are going to need the labor because they are going to be providing the installation for free," Lee said.

ConnectHome was launched to close the educational gap between students with slow or no Internet connectivity and those with high-speed Internet access outside of school. A report issued by the White House Council of Economic Advisers found that lower-income U.S. residents use the Internet less and have slower Web connections. Without Web access to complete homework, however, there is a noticeable achievement gap that can form between low-income and middle-class students, according to the report.

In addition, many companies now post jobs openings only online, and many government services must be completed online, argued politicians in favor of ConnectHome.