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Tampa to be part of Obama’s public-private effort to close digital divide

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

In Oklahoma earlier this week, President Obama announced a new joint effort with local communities, the federal government and the private sector to expand high-speed broadband to over 275,000 low-income households around the nation — with Tampa being one of the 27 cities and one tribal nation participating.

The program is called ConnectHome,  an extension of Obama’s ConnectEd program, which provides Internet access to schools and libraries across the country.

According to a just released paper produced by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, investments from the federal government have led to the deployment or upgrading of well over 100,000 miles of network infrastructure, while 45 million additional Americans have adopted broadband.

But a digital divide remains.

Currently, 74.4 percent of all Americans have access to broadband Internet access. That number drops to 67 percent for Hispanics, 61 percent for blacks, and 58 percent for homes headed by Native Americans.

Asian-Americans households have the greatest access to broadband at 86 percent, higher than whites, which is also at 74.4 percent.

In a statement, Tampa-St. Petersburg Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor called it a significant gain for Tampa, saying it will boost access to digital opportunities for students and allow them to develop the type of skills needed to secure higher-paying jobs.

“We have worked hard for federal investments to deploy or upgrade network infrastructure to improve students’ access to high-speed broadband in their classrooms but we can do better for our communities, working families and children,” she said in a statement. “ConnectHOME is an important next step  develop strong public-private partnerships to expand high-speed, broadband access at home for working-class families and increase computer literacy for all our kids.”

According to the White House, while nearly two-thirds of households in the lowest-income quintile own a computer, less than half have a home Internet subscription.

In addition to Tampa, here are the other communities that will be part of the ConnectHome program:

Albany, GA; Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Baton Rouge, LA; Boston, MA; Camden, NJ; Choctaw Nation, OK; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Durham, NC; Fresno, CA; Kansas City, MO; Little Rock, AR; Los Angeles, CA; Macon, GA; Memphis, TN; Meriden, CT; Nashville, TN; New Orleans, LA; New York, NY; Newark, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Rockford, IL; San Antonio, TX; Seattle, WA; Springfield, MA and Washington, DC.

In Tampa, 1,420 households with children will be served through the program —though which particular kids will be part of the program has not yet been announced.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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