Congress expands internet access

Internet access is being expanded to low income families.
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 3:56 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The pandemic caused people to work from home, routine doctor visits to be conducted virtually, and kids’ education to take place over the internet. This trickled into another problem learned by companies and schools; some people did not have access to a computer or the internet. As a result, funding for monthly internet subsidies was included in the $1 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress last year.

The Biden Administration says that 20 internet companies have agreed to provide discounted services to people with low incomes. To qualify, a household must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Locally, Midco and Vast Broadband joined the program to give more people access to high-quality internet.

“You know there are not many aspects of life left that don’t require an internet connection. Whether it is working and learning from home, telehealth, or applying for benefits or applying for jobs. It’s 2022 and fast reliable internet is not the privilege of a few it’s a necessity; a lifeline to so many,” said Jesse Granger of Vast.

Vast says that 100 of the 450 people using the program are in the Rapid City area, their largest market. The broadband company predicts that the number will increase and they want more people to take advantage of the basic necessity.

The Rapid City Public Library agrees, “Another thing people don’t realize is that even though we offer books, DVDs, and games, the laptops and the hotspots are our number one checked-out item consistently,” said Laurinda Tapper, Public Relations Coordinator at Rapid City Public Library.

The internet is a hot commodity at the library. Tapper says the total hours logged this year alone would equal ten and a half years “You know, just January through April 2020 (sic), we have logged well over 92,000 hours of computer, Wi-Fi, and laptop use.”

As more households have access to the internet, more people will be able to apply for jobs, gain access to their bank accounts, and visit the doctor from the comfort of their own homes.

The 20 participating companies are Allo Communications, AltaFiber, Altice USA, Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporioum, Frontier, IdeaTex, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum, Starry, Verizon (Fios only, Vermont Telephone Co., Vexus Fiber and Wow! Internet, Cable and TV.

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