A coalition of groups across the state are launching a public awareness campaign to get more Arkansans access to discounted internet thanks to a relatively new pandemic-era program, according to a Monday news release.
Why it matters: More than 1 million Arkansans don't have internet. That's about a third of the state.
What's happening: Arkansans who struggle to afford internet are eligible to apply for the Federal Communications Commission's Emergency Broadband Benefit program.
- The program, started last month, gives discounts of up to $50 a month on home internet and up to $100 toward a laptop, computer or tablet.
- Gov. Asa Hutchinson's Broadband Office, Bentonville-based nonprofit Heartland Forward, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, and the Arkansas State Library, among others, are trying to get the word out to low-income Arkansans through ads and community outreach.
Yes, but: The $3.2 billion program is temporary and will end when money runs out or six months after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic.
What they're saying:
"The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how many Arkansans still lack internet access, and how critical it is to invest in closing the digital divide in our state."— Gov. Hutchinson in a news release
Details: One member of a household must meet at least one of the following criteria to be eligible:
- Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid or the FCC's Lifeline program
- Receives free or reduced-price school lunch or breakfast
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
- Experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough since Feb. 29, 2020
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program
Of note: Heartland Forward is promoting the program as part of its three-year Connecting the Heartland initiative focused on ensuring families and businesses have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet.
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