NORFOLK, Va. – Parents, children, and school staff have probably never needed the internet more than now, as the school year goes virtual for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For low-income families, affordable broadband internet may be out of reach. The National Digital Inclusion Dalliance cited a 2019 report from the FCC that said 16 million households across the United States, making an annual salary of at or less than $35,000, do not have access to broadband internet.
That is an issue, IT and cybersecurity expert Suresh Murugan told News 3.
“There’s affordability issues where it’s expensive to have the broadband connection we want,” he said. “I recommend visiting the many websites where you can find information about eligibility for special programs from the broadband service providers.”
One such website, Murugan said, is EveryoneOn.org – a nonprofit that aims to connect “low-income families to affordable internet service and computers, and delivering digital skills trainings.”
The website does that by first asking your zip code. It then asks you to check off criteria you fall under, such as if you have a child in a K-12 school or college, if you are a household of four earning an annual income at or below $49,000, if your child receives free or reduced-cost school meals through the TANF program or if you participate in Supplemental Security Income, among other criteria.
Once you check off what you receive, a list of offers from broadband companies appear. One offer News 3 looked up with the Norfolk zip code 3510 resulted in two offers. One was internet from Cox at $9.95 a month for 25 megabytes download, three megabytes upload speeds.
If you click on an offer it will take you to that company’s website where you will need to fill its eligibility requirement forms. It will ask you to provide proof of what you receive and qualifications.
Murugan also cited two other factors: “The distant divide where the connectivity gaps, then the geographical location.”
Some local cities have public internet WiFi access, such as the City of Norfolk. Earlier in September, it added 20 new public WiFi access hotspots.
One such place is Town Point Park in Downtown Norfolk, adjacent to the river. It is free and can easily be connected with just a few mouse clicks.