Tampa, Florida (WFLA) – Affordable internet access is becoming a larger part of the post-pandemic economic recovery. As a result, broadband providers are partnering with the federal government to give more people a connection to the digital world. The programme, which began on December 31, 2021, now has more options for access and connectivity.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Department of Health and Human Services reported that one in six low-income Americans did not have access to the Internet. The problem of Internet access is getting worse in rural areas and among the elderly.
The FCC says we live “in an age when broadband is essential to innovation, jobs, and global competitiveness.” According to the Federal Communications Commission, about 4% of Americans still do not have access to the Internet, and about 13.25 million residents, as of 2019. The US Census Bureau reported that 13% of Florida residents had no access to the Internet as of 2019. The data sets are separate, which adds to the interval in years for the data.
To address the need for connectivity in an evolving labor market, the federal government and various state legislatures have introduced programs to improve broadband access as a tool for economic improvement.
One such program, called the Affordable Communication Program, is being paid for through the FCC initiative. ACP is designed “to ensure families can afford the broadband they need for work, school, health care, and more.”
Through the subsidy program, poor people can get a $30 per month discount for Internet service, or up to $75 per month for families who live on eligible tribal lands.
A variety of companies, including AT&T, Google Fiber, and Spectrum, have teamed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to give poor or low-income Americans access to broadband. Comcast, which is also a partner in the federal ACP, offers two other ways for low-income residents to get free Internet access.
According to the company, Comcast offers a service called “Internet Essentials Plus”. The plan costs $29.95 per month, which means the federal benefit from the ACP makes internet access free for eligible customers to use and take advantage of the plan. However, customers with Comcast can now add mobile service through their Xfinity Mobile plan.
With a $30 per month credit, Xfinity Mobile costs $25 per month, and provides access to 5G for customers who qualify for ACP benefits. Plus, there’s no mobile software fee for line access or activation, and it comes with unlimited calls and texts.
In Florida, more than 60 companies will provide broadband Internet to families with 200% or less of the federal poverty guidelines. HHS reports that 76% of all Florida residents have access to the Internet in some form, as of 2019. However, 18% of low-income Florida residents do not.
For individuals earning $13,590 or less or a family of four earning $27,750, Internet access will be either cheaper or free.
As of 2019, when the last complete data was available, the USDA reported that 12.7% of Florida’s population lives in poverty. Depending on the county, the number fluctuates. In Citrus County, 15.2% of the county lived in poverty in 2019. The Hardy County rate was 22.1% higher, as did Hillsborough, Highlands, and Polk counties (13.5%, 15.8%, 14%).
These are the same Florida residents who qualify for programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance or Medicaid, and who receive federal assistance for public housing, Supplemental Security Income, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or Lifeline, are all eligible. Those in tribal programs such as the Office of General Assistance for Indian Affairs, Tribal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or Food Distribution Programs in Indian Reservations are also eligible.
Pew Research Center found differences in online access that created what they call the “homework gap” and affected educational outcomes. The technology access gap has been an issue for years, according to the Pew Center. The economic and educational challenges of the pandemic have brought these gaps into greater focus, adding impetus for politicians to bring students back into personal learning.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, with large segments of students switching to virtual learning thanks to lockdowns, internet access is becoming more and more important to society and education. This is the belief of the FCC as well.
In its 14th annual Broadband Deployment Report, the Federal Communications Commission said: “With many jobs, schools, and health care services shifting to virtual environments in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the need to provide broadband connectivity across America has never been greater. gone.”
You can check your eligibility for the ACP program and apply for the benefit online or submit a printed application. Next, contact your preferred internet service provider for the discounts applied to your monthly bills.