State Urges Pennsylvanians to Apply for Federal Internet Grants – 90.5 WESA

State Urges Pennsylvanians to Apply for Federal Internet Grants - 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Wolf is encouraging eligible Pennsylvanians to apply for federal Internet assistance. The Affordable Connectivity Program was created as part of the $1 trillion infrastructure package approved by Congress last year.

Eligible households can receive up to $30 off monthly internet bills (or $75 per month on tribal lands), as well as a one-time benefit of $100 when purchasing a laptop, desktop or tablet, limited to one monthly service and one device per household.

Eligible families must have an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or participate in one of several federal assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid.

Of the 2 million Commonwealth households eligible for the cost-cutting measure, less than a quarter — or 490,000 households — are currently enrolled, according to government officials.

In Allegheny County alone, 44,903 households have enrolled in the program to date. That is about one in five of the 206,667 eligible households.

According to Meta Mesh Community Wireless, a Pittsburgh-based not-for-profit internet service provider, 10% of the city’s households do not own a computer. In neighborhoods like Hill District, Larimer and Homewood, that number rose to 15%.

“The Affordable Connectivity Program is another opportunity to help us close the digital divide so all Pennsylvania residents can use the internet,” Wolf said in a statement Wednesday. “The need for a reliable internet service for the home is essential and this program helps more households access the online resources they need for work, school and healthcare. I urge all eligible Pennsylvanians to apply for this program today.

A report released this spring by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and several local nonprofits 87% of households in the region pay $11 more per month than the average American for home internet.

According to a survey conducted by the SPC in 10 counties, 12% of residents rely on their mobile data plan for their main home internet, and 2% have no internet access at all at home.

When looking at differences between race and age, researchers found that 91% of Latino residents in the region said their smartphone was their only connected device, while 54% of respondents over the age of 65 use a desktop computer to access to internet.

As of May, 20 Internet companies agreed to provide discounted service to those participating in the program. Residents who apply their discount to a subscription from one of these providers will have no residual out-of-pocket costs.

Participants include Allo Communications, AltaFiber (and Hawaiian Telecom), Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink), Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum ( Charter Communications), Starry, Verizon (Fios only), Vermont Telephone Co., Vexus Fiber, and Wow! Internet, Cable and TV. Together, according to the White House, they cover more than 80% of the country’s population in urban, suburban and rural areas.

Internet subscriptions from partner companies offer download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second. Researchers at the SPC consider those areas to be “well served”.

The Biden administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure package earmarked $14.2 billion for the federal grant. The administration says 48 million households across the country are eligible.

Residents can register online at affordable connectivity.gov. Once approved, individuals must contact their preferred internet service provider to select a plan and have the discount applied to their bill.

Some ISPs may also require individuals to apply as well.

Leave a Reply