Program provides affordable internet to low-income individuals

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Jake Abbott, Appeal-Democrat, Marysville, Calif.
·2 min read
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Apr. 9—Many services or resources people rely on require some sort of internet connection to obtain within the past 12 months due to the pandemic.

For low-income individuals who can't afford a pricey internet provider, that could mean the difference in having their children attend school, setting up important appointments, finding employment, or connecting with friends and family.

United Way organizations across the state, including the Yuba-Sutter-Colusa United Way, are raising awareness about a program that provides low-cost broadband services to the area's most in-need population who qualify.

Bob Harlan, executive director of the local United Way, said there is an agreement between broadband service providers and the state that they must provide a discount program for low-income individuals.

"I think this program applies to a lot of people who are paying $40 or more a month than they need to who have a limited income," Harlan said. "There are a number of people who can't receive the service because it isn't available, either because they live in the foothills or in remote areas, but there are still thousands of people that are in broadband areas that could benefit from this."

Program eligibility is determined at the household level. If someone in the home is currently receiving government assistance such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), MediCal/Medicaid, California Temporary Assistant Program for Needy Families (TANF), public housing programs, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or other similar programs, the entire household is eligible. Those not enrolled in government assistance programs can also qualify if their income is less than 138 percent the federal poverty line.

Those that qualify for the program could receive broadband internet for as low as $10-$20 a month.

Those interested in learning about their eligibility can do so by texting "INTERNET" to 211-211 or by visiting http://broadband.unitedwaysca.org.

When calling a service provider to request the program, Harlan said it's important that the caller clearly states their interest in the low-income broadband program in California. Those that do qualify can use their own router and are not required to purchase a router from the service provider.

"We're excited that under state law, broadband providers are establishing new accounts and modifying existing accounts to thousands of low-income households to assist children, families and older adults," Harlan said.