Families hope new $15 internet service for low-income households will offer financial relief

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Beginning in June, Internet service providers across New York will have to offer high-speed internet for $15 dollars a month for eligible low-income families. This comes after Governor Cuomo signed the affordable broadband law last week. 

One area mother says the cap will be helpful for many families in our community, including hers. As a mother of four, Terray Dickerson, says her bill is currently $200, and the extra money will be helpful in her day-to-day life. 

“A lot of other people are in a worse situation, who really need that, like people who can barely get food on the table, that would help. You know their kids are forced to go to school because now they can’t afford WiFi,” Dickerson said. 

Dickerson says she knows a lot of families who don’t have access to internet and have kids who need it for school. 

“A lot of people I know, they sit outside people’s houses, or they find places with free WiFi and they just tap into the free WiFi, or even certain teenagers will just ride around til they find some free WiFi. and they’ll do their work from McDonald’s, Dunkin’, anywhere with free WiFi they can get.” 

Many students are learning online during the pandemic, which means families need access to the internet. 

In Rochester, the school district has been offering unlimited data hotspots to students since last year. 

“Going back to September, and even before that, we were partnering with the 10 Million Project, which was previously the 1 Million Project, we relayed approximately 10,000 WiFi’s to students that didn’t have reliable home internet,” said Glen VanDerwater, the Chief Technology Officer in the Rochester City School District. “Many of those hotspots only had 10 gb per month, however through governmental and philanthropic donations, we were able to move those hotspots to unlimited data so students wouldn’t run out of data when interacting with there classrooms. 

VanDerwater says they have seen a big impact since offering those hotspots to families. “We’ve seen a greater attendance with parents being more interactive and active in school activities, so this just provides another modality for our kids and all of our families to be more engaged in academics,” he said. 

While it may come to a surprise to some, the $15 a month high-speed internet service isn’t anything new. Spectrum has been offering that price to low-income families for years. It’s just not something everyone knows about. 

Regardless of how families get their internet, many would agree it’s a necessity when during a digital age and a pandemic. 

“I think it’s just another modality to connect all New Yorkers, not just with school and activities, but through goods and service, whether it’s commerce or interacting with your medical doctor, it really does open the doors for our entire community to be full participants with everything that is at your disposal,” VanDerwater said. 

Eligible families for the $15 internet service include those in one of the following:

  • National School Lunch Program
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 
  • Medicaid
  • Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption
  • Disability  Rent Increase Exemption
  • Utility Affordability Programs 

According to the governor, the $15 per month package will include all equipment and fees associated with high-speed internet service.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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