💻These programs offer free in-home internet, hot spots in Florida

Students with free, reduced lunch at school qualify for FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program

ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s turned from a luxury to a necessity - high-speed internet.

Broadband internet is used in just about every aspect of life from getting a job to education and even healthcare.

But what if you can’t afford broadband or wi-fi at home?

According to Consumer Reports, the average internet bill is $75 a month.

“For a lot of Americans struggling to make ends meet, that’s just too much. So, the government wisely stepped in,” said Consumer Reports Senior Policy Counsel Jon Schwantes.

In 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission launched the $14 billion Affordable Connectivity Program covering $30 a month for in-home internet and up to $75 a month on qualifying tribal lands.

More than 100 providers in Florida are a part of the program and combined with a low-cost internet option, would make home internet free for some plans. Keep in mind, many internet service providers offer their own discounted internet programs for qualifying households, some costing $30 a month, so with the ACP, the service would be free.

“Maybe only a third of eligible households are taking advantage of this program. We’d like to see that number increase, but it’s relatively new,” said Schwantes.

There is an income requirement, income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, but a quick way to find out if you’re eligible. Click HERE to apply for the ACP.

“If you qualify for SNAP, WIC or received a Pell grant if you’re a college student, Medicaid is another way to qualify. If your child is in their school’s free or reduced lunch program you qualify,” said Schwantes.

Another option for free in-home internet service may be as easy as a trip to your local library.

“Life just happens and someone may lose their job and have health issues and not be able to afford the internet, and you need the internet to apply for jobs. Everything is online so we’re hearing more and more of those stories,” said Orange County Library System Chief Project Officer Lynette Schimpf.

The OCLS received a nearly half a million dollar grant through the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund purchasing 1,000 wi-fi hot spots.

“They are available at all of our locations and all you have to do is go to the customer service desk and tell them you’d like to check out a hot spot,” said Schimpf. “You’ll get a little box with the hot spot inside along with a quick start guide and charging cable.”

The hot spots are free and available to all OCLS members no matter the income. You just need a library card. The hot spots can be checked out for a month and renewed up to five times in a row as long as there’s not a waiting list.

“The internet is a lifeline for everybody... everything is on the internet, and we know there’s a lot of people out there that can’t afford the internet so that was the motivating factor behind this program,” said Schimpf.

Another benefit to FCC’s Affordable connectivity program, eligible households can receive a one-time discount of up to $100 for devices like laptops and tablets from participating providers.

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.