Resources and Solutions to Providing Connectivity
The following provides options and solutions for those stuck in the Digital Divide
Connected Nation staff has been working to compile resources and solutions for those who need it the most. This is our list so far, and we will continue to add to and update this regularly in response to the needs of families, communities, and leaders across the country:
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), overseen by the FCC, provides funds for broadband service and devices for eligible households. Learn more here.
In addition, the FCC has a page that highlights providers going above and beyond the pledge at no extra cost to customers You can find it here: https://www.fcc.gov/service-providers-pledge-consumer-support-during-pandemic
The Keep Americans Connected Campaign was extended to June 30 and includes the following promises from providers:
- Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic
- Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic
- Open their Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them. Chairman Pai is now asking providers to extend these offerings to consumers and small businesses until the end of June. Earlier this week, the Chairman held calls with providers representing the vast majority of broadband and telephone subscribers in the United States as well as trade associations to relay this request.
If you can get internet connectivity through your mobile or smartphone, but also need to connect with your laptop, desktop computer or tablet, you can do this by purchasing a mobile “hotspot” device. These devices provide a Wi-Fi hub in your home that connects to the internet using an available 3G/4G mobile service (via Verizon, AT&T, T-mobile, Sprint, etc.).
Multiple devices within the home can use this Wi-Fi connection to access the internet using a shared data plan. These hotspot devices go by various names such as mobile hotspots, Wi-Fi hotspots, Wi-Fi smartspots and others, and are currently in high demand so they may be hard to find. Also, since they use a shared data plan, you’ll have to purchase a data plan that will accommodate the amount of data used by all devices on a monthly basis.
A hotspot is a physical location where people can access the internet, typically using Wi-Fi. Some internet service providers offer “hotspots” across the country. The following list of links can help you find these.
- Check your local library and ask if they are loaning out hotspots.
- Check state offices. For example, InnovateOhio has identified free hotspots throughout the state: https://innovateohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/innovate/news/news-and-events/04042020
- Check local universities and community colleges. Many are offering free Wi-Fi to the public. WKU located in Bowling Green, Kentucky is one example: https://www.wku.edu/news/articles/index.php?view=article&articleid=8656/
Locate Free Provider Hotspots
- Cox Communications: https://www.cox.com/residential/internet/learn/cox-hotspots.html
- Frontier Communications: https://www.frontierwifi.com/location/
- AT&T provides hotspots nationwide. To access from your AT&T smartphone or wearable device:
- Your device should automatically connect to AT&T’s network when you’re at a Wi-Fi hotspot location
- From a tablet or laptop
- Note: Make sure your Wi-Fi is enabled
- Select att-wifi or attwifi from your list of available wireless networks.
- Get access to free Spectrum Wi-Fi hotspots: https://www.spectrum.com/wifi-hotspots
- Xfinity Wi-Fi (covers Comcast) — the company is giving free access to everyone, including nonsubscribers, for 60 days. You can find hotspots anywhere by heading to this website: https://hotspots.wifi.xfinity.com/
Lifeline is a federal program that lowers the monthly cost of phone or internet. Eligible customers will get up to $9.25 toward their bill. Head to this website https://www.lifelinesupport.org/ to see if you qualify and to find companies near you that participate.
EveryoneOn provides a short form to help you establish eligibility for low-cost internet and devices (laptops and desktops) and locate companies based on your ZIP code. This can be found at https://www.everyoneon.org/find-offers.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance recently put together a list of free and low-cost internet plans (all less than $20 a month total cost). You can find that list here: https://www.digitalinclusion.org/free-low-cost-internet-plans/.
- Access from AT&T is offering two months of free service as well as $5 a month and $10 a month plans (plus tax), based on speed, for new customers who order before April 30. It also expands eligibility based on income (household income based on 135 percent or less than the federal poverty guidelines) and participation in the National School Lunch Program/Head Start and is waiving all home internet data overage fees. This pdf provides additional details, including how to enroll, or simply call 1-855-220-5211 (English) or 1-855-220-5225 (Spanish). Additionally, visit att.com/access to enroll.
- Charter Communications (under its Spectrum brand name) is offering internet up to 100 Mpbs for FREE, including in-home Wi-Fi, to new subscriber households with teachers or students for 60 days. This pdf provides additional details, including how to enroll, or simply call 1-844-488-8395.
- For Michigan and Wisconsin residents - the Astrea Assistance Program is offering connection assistance for children, students, and teachers on it's website (linked under the name). The company is also offering upgrade and installation assistance. Details for the second program can be found on this pdf.
- Altice USA (Optimum and Suddenlink) is offering 30 Mbps broadband service for free for 60 days to households that have K-12 and/or college students who may be displaced by school closures and do not currently have home broadband.
- Comporium is offering 60 days of free broadband service to households with students that don’t currently have broadband and is waiving installation fees.
- Atlantic Broadband is introducing a new low-cost broadband plan for new customers that is free for the first two months (PDF download).
- BEK Communications is doubling internet speeds for all customers at no additional charge, offering broadband service for free for four months to new customers with telehealth, education, and work-from-home needs (PDF download).
- C Spire is offering free wireless data to K-12 students for educational purposes.
- CableONE/Sparklight is introducing a new low-cost broadband plan for low-income consumers for 60 days and allowing unlimited data on all internet services for 30 days.
- Hotwire Communications is offering free 100 Mbps broadband for two months to new customers that are students or in low-income households (PDF download).
- Hughes is raising data caps and prioritizing educational services.
- Nelson Cable is increasing broadband speeds for customers that need it for distance learning, telecommuting, or telemedicine, and offering 50 Mbps broadband service for free through June 30 to new customers in need.
- Sprint is offering unlimited smartphone data and additional mobile hotspot data for 60 days; introducing new low-cost smartphone plans; reducing prices for hotspot devices and doubling the data allotment for those devices; increasing data usage limits for high school students without home internet that are supported by the 1Million Project Foundation; and accelerating the delivery of 100,000 devices originally intended for next school year to those students.
- Washington Broadband is increasing broadband speeds for student customers and offering broadband service for free to students who cannot afford it and small-business owners who have had to close their businesses.
- Windstream is offering two months of free service and waived activation fees for new low-income customers.
Connected Nation (CN) has worked across the country for nearly two decades to find innovative solutions for connecting all Americans. That includes working at the state level.
Right now, we have active statewide programs in Texas, Ohio, and Michigan. Our Texas and Michigan teams have put together lists of what local providers are doing for the community during the pandemic. Please note: Some of these may apply in other states as well.
Connected Nation (CN) recognizes that not everyone is “savvy” when it comes to online communication. That’s why CN is providing some FREE resources for online training to help senior citizens and others in need of assistance as they navigate a world that's rapidly becoming almost completely digital.
You can find this training on CN’s Drive website at https://www.driveyourlearning.org/. Below are some of the most commonly used training resources from Drive:
- Introduction to Email
- Introduction to the Internet
- Internet Safety
- Top 10 web apps you need to stay connected during COVID-19
- Where to find online storytime resources
- Living room concerts, workout classes, watching baby goats! Here’s an awesome list of stuff you can do with your kids (or alone) while spending time at home.
- 7 free video chat apps to use if you're social distancing