Groups team up to give low-income Utahns free internet access via Google Fiber

SALT LAKE CITY -- Since August, Google Fiber has been available for portions of downtown Salt Lake City. But, for many in low-income housing, paying for any internet service at all just hasn't been an option.

Saturday, Google Fiber announced it has teamed up with the city to bring that high-speed internet to some housing for low-income Utahns at no cost to the residents.

“With the rising cost of internet service, me being a single mom, this is an amazing opportunity for us,” said Kelli Nicholas, a resident at Lorna Doone Properties.

She said it is a great opportunity for those at the Lorna Doone properties in downtown Salt Lake City.

“We have a ton of residents here that are handicapped, and they live on a monthly stipend, they can’t, I mean, every penny counts here," Nicholas said.

There are 109 apartments getting free internet access, and some residents said this is the first time they've ever had internet access at home.

"…Because they simply couldn't afford it, and it’s such a barrier to your ability to find employment, to do your homework," said Jackie Biskupski, Salt Lake City Mayor.

Unlike many of her neighbors, Kelli Nicholas has been able to pay for some internet access, and like many who discover what the internet has to offer she now depends on it.

"We do not have cable television or anything, so it's a way that we stay connected," she said. "I read about our current events online, my son and I do homework things."

Having the internet is about so much more than checking Facebook. It can mean the ability to earn a living at home, learn, and, above all, connect with people and places they may never be able to get to otherwise.

Salt Lake City, the Utah Non-profit Housing Corporation and Google Fiber teamed up to make that connection more accessible.

“It's a partnership that goes so far beyond just being a company that delivers fiber, which I'm so proud of," Biskupski said.

The Digital Inclusion Plan brings not only high-speed internet, but free access to rental computers and classes on how to use them.

"It's a way, another way, to connect with people and do things together, it's a wonderful tool," Nicholas said. "I'm really glad that Google came."

"We will learn from them on how it impacts their lives, so we expect to see jobs and skills, access to the internet, transportation needs fulfilled and connectivity to their families," said Jacob Brace, Community Impact Manager for Google Fiber in Salt Lake City.