One local organization expands efforts for residents to have internet accessibility

Local News

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — With statewide and national conversations continuing about broadband expansion, one local organization will be assisting residents wanting to get internet through the Emergency Broadband Benefit.

It’s an F.C.C. program providing discounts of up to $50 a month toward broadband services or $100 off a one time purchase of a pairable device. However, one cost not accounted for is an installation fee.

As the need for internet for school, work and other projects increases, $10,000 has been set aside by the United Way of the Wabash Valley for residents to apply and receive $100 to offset installation expenses.

Data collected through a variety of surveys conducted by the United Way and it’s Strong Neighborhood Council showed a common trend. According to the Council’s Co-Chair Carey LaBella, it was the need for internet.

“One thing we’ve heard repeatedly is we need to communicate and be able to access jobs, access education,” LaBella said. “With this federal program coming it gave the United Way a way to provide that assistance.”

Other data shows residents have struggled to find money to pay for internet installation.

“For some people they have to choose, pay for my bills or feeding their families,” LaBella said. “We hope this money can get rid of that worry for residents.”

Guidelines to receive a portion of this $3.2 billion federal internet accessibility fund include experiencing a substantial loss since February 29, 2020, being a recipient of a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year or making less money than 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines annually.

Dorothy Chambers with the United Way said the organization sees their $10,000 as a community investment.

“Broadband is a critical part of our society now a days,” Chambers added. “So, affordable access is an important characteristic of a healthy neighborhood. It’s a key support mechanism for children and families.”

In order to get a discount on a pairable device, including a laptop, computer or tablet, a household must contribute more than $10 but less than $50 toward the purchase of a broadband provider.

“There are needs in the community and pockets where broadband is just not there,” LaBella said. “So, this federal benefit and the United Way assistance program will help us close that gap.”

With installation fees being taken care of by the United Way, Chambers said she hopes it also keeps community members engaged.

“Our goal is to financially assist families,” Chambers said. “Going towards that goal is our effort to provide this access to internet so people can search for jobs, maintain their jobs, and keep up with their classwork.”

Potentially eligible households wanting to apply can contact their internet provider. For more information go online to GetEmergencyBroadband.org, call 833-511-0311 or visit www.fcc.gov.

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