HUD secretary touts broadband initiative in public housing

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development visited a Nashville high school Wednesday to tout President Barack Obama's initiative to bring broadband Internet access to students living in public housing.

Julian Castro spoke to students at Stratford High School about the ConnectHome program that's being rolled out in 28 communities around the country, including in Nashville and Memphis.

"We cannot have a United States of America where only if you have some money do you have Internet access at home," Castro said. "We need to equip all of our young people, whether they're rich or poor, with Internet access."

The program is meant to bridge a gap for students who can borrow computers and devices from their schools, but don't have Internet access once they bring them home.

Castro noted that college and work applications increasingly require forms to be filled out online and that making free or low-cost broadband available in public housing will give students a better chance at succeeding in life.

"They're going to do better at school and have a greater opportunity of going to college and boosting their careers," he said. "That's a long-term goal, but I'm confident if we do this right, we can have that impact."

Castro's visit was part of Obama's "Cabinet in your Community" road tour following Tuesday's State of the Union address in which the president touted his administration's "bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online."

Federal and city housing officials have been working with Internet service providers to bring broadband to public housing in Nashville by around April.

"Opportunity comes when you have broadband access," said Nashville Mayor Megan Barry. "My commitment is to continue to make sure we are putting broadband access to the people who need it the most — and those are the people who don't have it."

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