Local News

Chavis Heights neighborhood gets free Internet access

Posted October 17, 2009 7:01 p.m. EDT
Updated October 18, 2009 3:34 p.m. EDT

— Raleigh Housing Authority community of Chavis Heights is getting three years of free Internet access and technical support.

Twila Williams was among 200 Chavis Heights’ families who got hooked up to the broadband access on Saturday.

For school work, her children and grandchildren used to go to the library to get online.

"I think every home needs a computer … as long as it can be educational,” Williams said.

Groups teaching Internet use and safety helped get the families started. The Raleigh Housing Authority, AT&T and the non-profit, One Economy, came together to make the project happen.

“The actual broadband is up and running,” said Gail Roper, Raleigh's chief information officer. “Once they have computers, they will be able to connect."

The initiative aims to overcome the barriers of broadband Internet use by providing low-income areas with accessibility and affordability.

“This project is a pioneering step toward bridging the digital divide,” Fourth District Congressman David Price said in a statement. “Improving access and computer literacy empowers those in underserved communities by opening the doors to a multitude of job training, job access and educational opportunities. All of our citizens should have access to these tools.”

Steve Westbrook, with the Purple Elephant Computer Factory, also helped out with the effort.

“We want you at home looking up things on the Internet,” Westbrook said.

The Purple Elephant Computer Factory refurbishes old computers and sells them cheap to families in need. A refurbished laptop can cost as little as $200.

"Everybody needs access to the computer to compete in today's world,” Westbrook said.

Members of AmeriCorps VISTA surveyed the Chavis Heights neighborhood to determine residents’ familiarity with computers and the Internet. The survey determined that only half of the people interviewed had Internet access and some had never been online. Information from the survey was used to design digital training for the residents.

Later this year, Heritage Park will also get connected to the Internet through the program. The city also plans to add Wi-Fi access to areas downtown.