New broadband program beginning Wednesday hopes to bridge digital divide

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Greenlight Networks announced Tuesday it will be taking part in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

The FCC’s broadband program begins Wednesday and hopes to bridge the digital divide by making internet more affordable for everyone. The program was enacted by Congress in December as part of a COVID-19 relief package. 

Rochester’s Mayor Lovely Warren joined Greenlight Networks and other community members on Tuesday to announce that Greenlight Networks will be offering more affordable broadband to families who qualify. 

“We know we live in a connected world, whether it’s for work, school, or just getting every day things done,” Mayor Warren said. “Our families, and especially our children and our seniors, need access to the internet.” 

The Broadband Benefit program provides $50-per-month subsidy to qualified households to help cover the costs of internet services.

The money will help many families who have struggled to pay for internet during the pandemic. 

“Many have been forced, many through no fault of their own, to work and to learn, to access health care, connect with the world, all from their homes, through their internet service,” said Chris Zeltmann, Senator Chuck Schumer’s Regional Director. 

Greenlight Networks says they believe thousands of local families will benefit from this program. The internet provider currently offers broadband services for $50 a month, meaning some families will be able to get internet at no charge. 

“They can get our 500 Mgpb service, so it’s not a reduced level of service, it’s the same service we’re offering to the community and it will be no out of pocket charge for them,” said Mark Murphy, the CEO of Greenlight Networks. 

The internet provider also announced Tuesday that it will be waiving the $100 installation fee for those who qualify. 

Charter Communications, Inc. announced Wednesday they are also participating in the broadband program. Millions of households that qualify are now eligible for up to $50 per month ($75 for Tribal Lands) toward their Spectrum internet services.

“Charter has a long track record of increasing connectivity through expanding broadband access, adoption and affordability,” said Catherine Bohigian, Charter Executive Vice President, Government Affairs. “Through our participation in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, we are further breaking down barriers to connectivity for American families, as part of our long-term commitment to advance access and improve broadband adoption.

In a press release, Charter says all Spectrum Internet plans available have no modem fees, data caps or contracts and include free self-installation.

Interested consumers who do not currently use spectrum can visit spectrum.com/getqualified or call 1-855-662-9946. Current customers can go to spectrum.net/broadbandbenefit for more information.

Congressman Joe Morelle, who helped secure funding for the program, says having internet access shouldn’t be something families have to worry about. 

“In today’s society, and especially in the wake of the pandemic, it’s clear internet access is not a luxury any longer, it’s become a necessity,” said Rep. Morelle. 

“I think this is truly is a game-changer and I think it’s a great partnership between government and private business to help Bridge that Digital divide that we all want to be apart of, this has been the missing piece,” Murphy said. 

Rep. Morelle said the program will continue until funding runs out or six months after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is declared.

Households that are eligible include:

  • Households with an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in some assistance programs, including SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline
  • Those who are approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price lunch program or school breakfast program during the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year
  • Households who received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
  • Those who experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss since Feb. 29, 2020 and the household had a total 2020 income at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers

To enroll, visit https://getemergencybroadband.org.

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

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