Free Internet Service and Computers Announced for Public Housing Residents

Post Date:05/08/2015 11:42 AM

Residents of public housing communities in the Town
of Chapel Hill gather with Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt,
Council member Maria Palmer and members of AT&T
and the Kramden Institute after the announcement.
(Click for the high-resolution image)

Public housing residents may sign up for the
computer class at

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt announced today (Friday, May 8) that public housing residents in Chapel Hill will receive free internet from AT&T and computers and digital literacy classes from Kramden Institute.

The announcement was made at the South Estes Public Housing Community off Estes Drive. The Mayor was joined by Robert Doreauk of AT&T, Michael Abensour of Kramden Institute, Town staff, and local residents.

Watch highlights from the announcement:

Closing the digital divide – and getting all Chapel Hill residents online – requires a multipronged approach. This is why Chapel Hill is working on a variety of fronts to ensure residents have access to internet, computer equipment and digital literacy educational opportunities.

“We are bridging the gap that separates the offline residents of Chapel Hill from those who are online, and helping to make opportunities available to everyone regardless of income,” said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. “Ensuring that all our residents can access information via the Internet is essential. We are thrilled to work with these community partners to make this possible.”


By establishing public-private partnerships like these, the Town strives to enable all members of the community to take part in the new forms of civic engagement, expanded opportunities for education, and economic growth associated with bringing faster internet speeds to the region.

Free Standard Internet
AT&T is delivering free U-verse High Speed Internet to communities in Chapel Hill as part of its agreement with the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN), an organization that includes six municipalities – Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Cary, Durham, Raleigh and Winston-Salem, and four leading universities – Duke, NC State, UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest. 

Several Chapel Hill properties will begin receiving AT&T U-verse Internet, TV and voice services over the next year.  Chapel Hill public housing neighborhood locations that will receive free AT&T U-verse Internet, up to 3Mbps for five years, include Airport Gardens, Church/Caldwell, Colony Woods West, Eastwood, North Columbia, Pritchard Park, Rainbow Heights, and South Estes. 

Robert Doreauk, Regional Director of External Affairs for AT&T, said: “Internet access is critical to success in today’s economy, whether you’re doing your homework, applying for a job or sharing with friends and family. AT&T is proud to work with Chapel Hill and to provide a vital service to its citizens.”

Free Digital Literacy Classes & Free Computers
The Town is also partnering with Kramden Institute to launch the Chapel Hill Digital Literacy Program, a four-part class series covering topics such as: Computer Basics, The Internet and Sharing Safely, Public Library Services, Office Programs, and Media and Creativity. Everyone who completes the program will receive a free laptop, donated by the Kramden Institute. These classes are open to all public housing residents ages 14 and up. 

Michael Abensour, Executive Director of Kramden Institute said:  “Digital literacy is the stepping stone to success in the 21st century, whether at school or in the workforce.  Partnering with Chapel Hill and AT&T on this exciting new initiative offers all the necessary ingredients for local residents to bridge the digital divide: computers, broadband access and classroom training.”

Meeting a Community Need
A 2013 White House report on the state of broadband in the United States showed that 93 percent of families making more than $100,000 have broadband access at home, compared to only 43 percent of families making less than $25,000. Residents living in public housing in Chapel Hill all have a family income below 80 percent of the Area Median Income ($53,900 for a family of four) and many are below 30 percent of the AMI ($24,250 for a family of four). 

At the same time, state legislation passed in 2013 calls for the NC General Assembly to move away from funding traditional textbooks in favor of digital materials by 2017, underscoring the need for internet access in the homes of students. In 2014, the Town of Chapel Hill conducted a survey of its public housing residents with school-aged children and found that one out of every four households reported having no internet access at home.  Ninety-six percent of survey respondents also reported an interest in computer training classes.

“Digital literacy is the stepping stone to success in the 21st century, whether at school or in the workforce," said Loryn Clark, Executive Director of the Town of Chapel Hill's Housing and Community. "Partnering with Chapel Hill and AT&T on this exciting new initiative offers all the necessary ingredients for local residents to bridge the digital divide: computers, broadband access and classroom training.”

The South Estes Public Housing Community is among 13 public housing neighborhoods throughout Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The communities are home to about 1,000 residents.

Community Broadband Efforts in Chapel Hill
The Town of Chapel Hill continues efforts to improve the quality of broadband service to the community. 

The Town’s partnership with AT&T is the result of an agreement with the NC Next Generation Network (NCNGN) that includes five other NC municipalities. Plans call for the availability of gigabit Internet services that would be 100 times faster than standard cable Internet speeds. Build-out is under way with most to be completed in 2015.

Chapel Hill also has been selected as one of the next destinations for Google Fiber, making the community among a handful in the nation that will have two ultra-high-speed internet service providers. Google’s network design is underway, and service is anticipated to roll out across the Triangle over the next few years. 

In addition to working with private providers, Chapel Hill maintains 34 miles of municipal-owned fiber, which connects and serves the Town’s public facilities. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are available in downtown Chapel Hill and in most Town buildings. Computer hardware and technical support are provided to several Town-run computer labs in community centers, public housing communities and the Chapel Hill Public Library that serve children, teens, and low-income families. The Town has prioritized making broadband accessible to all members of the community and will continue to engage new and existing partners to help achieve this goal.

For more on Chapel Hill’s community broadband efforts visit

Contact Us!
Public housing residents who would like to learn more about the opportunities described above, contact Sarah Osmer Vinas at 919-969-5079 or To learn more about public housing in Chapel Hill, call 919-968-2850. Media representatives looking for more information or photos from Friday’s event may reach Catherine Lazorko at 919-969-5055 or

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