In Oklahoma, Obama to announce program to close digital divide, connect more homes to Internet

Markets Associated Press

President Barack Obama set a goal of bringing high-speed Internet to most schools by 2017, and now he's promoting a new program to help close the digital divide even further by bringing that faster Internet to more people.

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During a visit Wednesday to Durant, Oklahoma, he planned to announce a pilot program that brings together communities, the private sector and the federal government to make high-speed Internet available to more families, the White House said.

ConnectHome will begin in 27 cities and one tribal nation, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, which stretches across much of southeastern Oklahoma and is headquartered in Durant.

It's the second dose of special attention that Obama has given the Choctaw Nation, which has about 200,000 members and is the third-largest Native American tribe in the United States.

Last year, the president designated the Choctaw Nation as a federal "Promise Zone," making it eligible for tax incentives and grants to help fight poverty.

The White House said Obama's school-based Internet program is on track to make sure that 99 percent of K-12 students can use the Web in their classrooms and libraries by 2017. The new program aims to help less privileged students access the Internet and continue learning when they get home from school.

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The 27 cities the Department of Housing and Urban Development selected for ConnectHome are: Albany, Georgia; Atlanta; Baltimore; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Boston; Camden, New Jersey; Cleveland; Denver; Durham, North Carolina; Fresno, California; Kansas City, Missouri; Little Rock, Arkansas; Los Angeles; Macon, Georgia; Memphis, Tennessee; Meriden, Connecticut; Nashville, Tennessee; New Orleans; New York; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia; Rockford, Illinois; San Antonio; Seattle; Springfield, Massachusetts; Tampa, Florida; and the District of Columbia.

Obama was spending the night in Oklahoma and continuing a weeklong focus on making the criminal justice system fairer.

He planned to meet Thursday with law enforcement officials and inmates during a historic tour of the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, a medium-security facility west of Oklahoma City that holds about 1,300 male offenders. "I will be the first sitting president to visit a federal prison," Obama said Tuesday as he addressed the annual NAACP convention in Philadelphia.

El Reno once housed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

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