Who qualifies for reduced internet?
Published 8:00 am Friday, December 9, 2022
Lunenburg County schools want to get the word out. Some families in the region can get reduced internet, thanks to a federal program.
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a benefit set up through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Under the plan, eligible households can receive $30 off their monthly internet bill. These households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer from participating providers.
Schools are working to get the word out because this could benefit students whose family might not otherwise be able to afford a laptop or similar equipment.
There’s one big question here. Who qualifies for the program? If your household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, you qualify. Also, if one member of the family met any of the criteria we’ll list below, you also qualify.
• That includes anyone who:
• Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current year
• Received free or reduced lunch
• Has Medicaid or SNAP
• Received a Section 8 Housing Voucher
• Lives in public housing
To enroll or learn more, visit AffordableConnectivity.gov. Those eligible can contact their preferred participating provider to choose a plan and have the discount applied to their bill.
For some students and their families, the problem isn’t just cost. It’s also about access. The journal Governing found in a 2021 report that while 98 percent of residents in Virginia cities and suburbs have access to high-speed internet, the same isn’t true in rural areas. Nearly one-third of rural Virginians still struggle with lower speeds.
An estimated 11% have no access to any kind of internet service, according to a 2019 Commonwealth Connect report by the governor’s office.
Work is being done to address that, as The Dispatch has covered this fall. But to be clear, residents need to be patient, officials say. This is the first step in a project that will take several years to complete.
Todd Fortune echoes that assessment. Fortune, who works as deputy director for the Commonwealth Regional Council, says Kinex is currently laying fiber down in the western portion of Prince Edward County, moving south/southeast toward Lunenburg County. This phase of the project alone is expected to take up to 12 months to complete.
For this project, Kinex is working with Lunenburg, Cumberland and Prince Edward counties with the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) grant that is currently set to run through June 2025.