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With help, some low-income families in L.A. can now afford the Internet

For a year, Christian Sanchez, his parents and his younger siblings lived without Internet service in their apartment in Estrada Courts — a Boyle Heights public

For a year, Christian Sanchez, his parents and his younger siblings lived without Internet service in their apartment in Estrada Courts — a Boyle Heights public housing project they have called home for 15 years.

The family of five couldn't afford it.

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"For research projects, I would have to stay on campus," said Sanchez, who is studying fashion merchandising at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.

But on Saturday morning the family got their Internet service back after AT&T teamed up with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the ConnectHome initiative.

Through ConnectHome, Internet service providers, nonprofits and the private sector offer broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs and devices for residents in assisted-housing units in 28 pilot communities nationwide.

Down the street from Sanchez and his family's apartment in Estrada Courts, the president of AT&T California and elected officials announced Wednesday that the company is now a national stakeholder in the initiative to help connect families in HUD-assisted housing with low-cost Internet service.

"The Internet is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity," said Julian Castro, HUD secretary. "By delivering Internet access to low-income communities, we're making sure that our young people can compete."

Over the next year, AT&T will host 30 events across 15 ConnectHome pilot communities within the company's wireline service area. The events will help inform people living in HUD-assisted homes about Access from AT&T, the service launched in April.

The first informational event will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday in the computer lab of the Estrada Courts development.

"We need to make sure that we see the next Mark Zuckerberg coming out of Boyle Heights or South L.A.," said Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Since 2015, the Housing Authority of Los Angeles has provided Internet connectivity to more than 2,200 units (1,830 units through ConnectHome).

Access from AT&T is offered to homes where the company offers wireline home Internet service and at least one resident participates in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Internet speeds provided at 10 Mbps and 5 Mbps will cost $10 a month and Internet speeds at 3 Mbps will cost $5 a month. The company will also waive installation and equipment fees for the service.

On Wednesday morning, Castro, Garcetti and AT&T California President Ken McNeely crowded around the computer of Sanchez's 11-year-old sister, Lisette Mares, as she pulled up her schoolwork.

(Castro and Garcetti signed an absence note from school for Lisette).

Over the last year, Lisette did most of her work on her phone or would visit a neighbor's house to work on projects she couldn't do at home.

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"It was a little bit harder," she said.

While Lisette is excited about being able to do homework on a computer — and not having to waste phone data — as soon as the Internet was hooked up she had a specific request for her older brother:

"Can you connect Netflix?"

For more California news, follow @brittny_mejia

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