Low-cost internet available for those in need amid pandemic

FCC, Starry Inc. offer affordable programs across metro Denver

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/9/21

A strong, reliable internet signal may be more important than ever amid the coronavirus pandemic, but internet service isn’t a sure thing for every household. The federal agency that regulates …

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Low-cost internet available for those in need amid pandemic

FCC, Starry Inc. offer affordable programs across metro Denver

Posted

A strong, reliable internet signal may be more important than ever amid the coronavirus pandemic, but internet service isn’t a sure thing for every household.

The federal agency that regulates communication by radio, television, satellite and cable is offering a program that provides a temporary discount on monthly internet bills for low-income households that qualify.

And in some parts of Englewood, Denver and Aurora, a company called Starry Inc. is providing low-cost internet service without the credit checks or complex eligibility criteria required by other internet providers, the company says.

Here’s information about how to take advantage of the two programs.

Emergency Broadband Benefit

The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, offers the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program — a discount on monthly internet bills. If your household is eligible, you can receive:

• Up to a $50 per month discount on your broadband service and associated equipment rentals;

• Up to a $75 per month discount if your household is on qualifying tribal lands;

• A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50).

Only one monthly service discount and one device discount are allowed per household, according to the website for the FCC’s program.

The program will end when the fund runs out of money, or six months after the federal Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner.

The FCC anticipates that Emergency Broadband Benefit funds will be available for several months, said Paloma Perez, a spokesperson for the FCC.

Who qualifies?

A household qualifies for the Emergency Broadband Benefit if it has an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines — that’s $35,775 or below for a family of four; see the chart here — or if any member of the household:

• Qualifies for Lifeline benefits through participation in SNAP (food assistance), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, federal public housing assistance, or Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefit;

• Participates in one of several tribal-specific programs, including Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, tribal Head Start (only households meeting the relevant income qualifying standard), Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF) or the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations;

• Experienced a substantial loss of income since Feb. 29, 2020, due to job loss or furlough and had a total household income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers;

• Received a federal Pell Grant in the current award year;

• Received approval for benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision, in the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school years; or

• Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program, and that provider received FCC approval for its eligibility verification process.

Program rules acknowledge there may be more than one eligible household residing at the same address, the program’s website says.

Any member of your household can make the household eligible. For example, if your child or dependent participates in the free and reduced-price school lunch program, your household qualifies.

See more information and apply here or call 833-511-0311. You can also email EBBHelp@usac.org with questions.

Low-cost internet in certain areas

Residents of a small number of communities in Denver, Englewood and Aurora may qualify for low-cost internet service from a company called Starry Inc.

The average cost of internet service is often out of reach for families living in public housing (government-supported housing) and affordable housing. In 2018, Starry launched the Starry Connect program to make broadband access available to families living in those housing communities, according to a news release.

Starry Connect offers residents 30 Mbps symmetrical speeds (upload and download) for $15 per month with no data caps, no long-term contracts, no additional equipment charges and no extra fees, said Mimi Ryals, a spokesperson for Starry.

Starry ties eligibility directly to the public- or affordable-housing community to remove the paperwork and qualification burden from the resident, the news release said.

Starry Connect launched in Denver in 2019 through a partnership with the Denver Housing Authority to bring the service to more than 600 households at Vida in west Denver, along with Connole Apartments and Thomas Bean Towers.

The Connect program also partners with Innovative Housing Concepts — Englewood’s housing authority — and other agencies around the country, according to the release.

“Headquartered in Boston and backed by world-class investors, Starry is currently available in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Denver and is expanding nationwide,” a Starry news release said.

Starry also launched a partnership with Aurora Public Schools recently to provide the Starry Connect service to APS families living in parts of Aurora. The partnership marks the first time Starry is making the service available to families living outside of public- and affordable-housing communities, Ryals said.

It’s available for certain APS families who qualify for free or reduced school lunch and live in residential buildings with Starry internet service in the following ZIP codes: 80010, 80011, 80012, 80045, 80220, 80230, 80238 and 80247. Starry will provide eligible families with five months of free service upon sign-up, a news release said.

All residents signing up for Starry Connect service in Denver Housing Authority and Englewood’s Innovative Housing Concepts communities will receive a discount code that can be redeemed by eligible households for a computer from an organization called PCs for People.

“Redeeming the offer is not a requirement to receive Starry Connect service — it is simply an additional offer to help our communities get connected and online with affordable broadband and devices,” Ryals said.

Check availability of Starry’s service here or call 888-231-9403. Learn about how its technology works and how it keeps costs low here.

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