How To Get Free Broadband Internet In Southern California

Low-income Americans now have more options for free high-speed Internet access, including at least eight providers serving Southern California, the White House announced Monday.

The federal government launched the Affordable Connectivity Program late last year provide $ 30 per month benefits to households with incomes no more than double the federal poverty level. But that subsidy was less than the amount many ISPs charged for a high-speed connection nearly enough to support an entire family of active users.

On Monday, the White House revealed that 20 broadband providers across the country, including five of the largest telephone and cable television companies, had agreed to provide “sufficiently high-speed” connections for no more than $ 30 per month at suitable homes. Eight of these serve communities in Southern California: AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Frontier, Mediacom, Spectrum, Starry, and Verizon.

As part of the deal, the White House said Spectrum, which serves much of Los Angeles County, doubled the bandwidth of its $ 30-per-month offering from 50 megabits per second to 100 megabits per second for qualified households. And Verizon slashed the price of its 200 Mbps wired offering from $ 40 to $ 30 per month.

Many other California Internet Providers participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program, including some such as TruConnect that provide mobile broadband services. The only ones highlighted by the White House were those providing 100 Mbps download connections at no cost to eligible families.

However, eliminating the cost of a broadband connection only removes one of the obstacles to wider Internet adoption. Sunne Wright McPeak, head of the California Emerging Technology Fund, said other obstacles include the need for a smart device and the know-how required to use it.

The bigger problem, however, may be that most people eligible for grants either do not know about it or are not interested. For example, nearly half of the families in Los Angeles County have low enough income to qualify for the federal subsidy, McPeak said, but less than a quarter of that group have signed up and it may be difficult to catch up with the rest; they are not likely to see online ads from a broadband provider advertising subsidies, for example.

The White House said Monday that it is trying to raise the profile of the program by having federal safety net agencies tell attendees about it and working with public interest group outreach efforts. The California legislature is also considering a bill (SINCE 2751) which would require broadband providers doing business with the state to offer and advertise affordable Internet connections for low-income families.

Here’s how to know if you’re eligible for the benefits and which broadband providers offer them.

Am I eligible and how do I apply?

The income cut is 200% of federal poverty level, which is higher for larger families. For a single individual, the threshold is $ 27,180 per year. For a family of four, that’s $ 55,500.

But there is an easier way to check your eligibility: You qualify for the program if someone in your family is enrolled in at least one of the 10 types of safety net programs, including meal vouchers, Medicaid, supplemental safety income, Pell grants and federal public subsidies for the home. Beneficiaries of select tribal benefit programs also qualify, and tribal land subsidies are higher – $ 75 per month.

To see if you are eligible or to submit an application, you can visit the “Get the internet”Web page, where you can follow the process. A mail application it is also available on the Get Internet site; it can also be found at Affordable Connectivity Program’s page how to apply. All of these resources, however, require Internet access and a computer, tablet or smartphone.

If you have questions about how to apply but don’t have access to the Internet, you can call the program’s help center at (877) 384-2575.

Once your application is approved, the grants will flow directly to the participating broadband provider of your choice. To find one in your area, check the program list, which you can search by postcode or city. The list includes more than 90 participating vendors near Los Angeles, although many of these are companies that resell services on a major wireless network.

If you already have internet access, your broadband provider may have its own grant application process. You should start by checking with your ISP.

What services are available?

The grants will pay either a landline to your home or a mobile broadband connection to your smartphone. You’ll likely get more bandwidth from a fixed connection – wireless providers typically apply much lower limits on the amount of data you can use per month.

The federal program also includes a $ 100 discount on low-cost laptops and tablets, but not many broadband providers offer device subsidies. The one exception among the largest telephone and cable television companies in the state is Cox, which serves Santa Barbara as well most of Orange and San Diego counties.

There is an additional $ 10-per-month federal grant, called the Lifeline, that businesses in most states can combine with the Affordable Connectivity Program to fund services for eligible low-income families. Meanwhile, California has its own Lifeline grant which adds about $ 15.50 to federal Lifeline aid.

But Matt Johnson, chief executive of TruConnect, said California is the only state that won’t allow wireless companies to bundle the money from the Lifeline and accessible connectivity program into one improved customer offering. Cable and landline companies can do this, he said – a point the California Public Utilities Commission disputes – but for wireless customers, it’s one or the other. As a result, he said, TruConnect cannot offer the same bandwidth to qualified families in California as it does in other states.

CPUC spokesperson Terrie D. Prosper said in an email that wireless and wired broadband providers currently receive the same subsidy amount, and none of them combine Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Program subsidies. The committee is considering a staff proposal to change this policy, you said.

How many people still need broadband?

A survey last year by USC and the California Emerging Technology Fund found that 91% of Californians surveyed had access to the Internet. But the survey also found that more than a quarter of low-income Californians surveyed had no internet service (16%) or just a data plan on their smartphone (10%).

Not having a high-speed connection at home makes it significantly more difficult to work, study, or receive medical care remotely, say the survey authors. In other words, it puts low-income families at a greater disadvantage than they already are.

One benefit of the latest White House push, McPeak said, is that it will increase the reach of low-income families by credible authorities. Such efforts can produce significant results, she said; when his group and Los Angeles County teamed up in an effort to spread the word about broadband subsidies late last year, membership in the county rose 43% in about three weeks.

But many of these families still need reliable sources to persuade and assist them in being online, McPeak said. This requires funding for community-based groups that can overcome language and cultural barriers to adoption and improve digital literacy, she said.

How long will the subsidies last?

Unlike its predecessor, the now deceased Broadband Emergency Fund, the Affordable Connectivity Program does not have an expiration date. But Congress could choose to cut funding at any time, which is why the California Emerging Technology Fund is pushing AB 2751, which would keep a version of the program alive if the Feds drop it.