LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Heartland Forward along with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and the Arkansas Department of Human Services is teaming up with community partners to help bring affordable internet to the state.
According to a news release from Heartland Forward, the program makes use of federal COVID-19 relief funding to provide eligible households discounts of up to $50 a month on home internet service through the Federal Communications Commission’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program.
The program aims to make internet more affordable and accessible for qualifying low-income families.
The release says the program also offers a $100 discount towards the purchase of a laptop, computer or tablet from a participating provider.
The program is temporary, according to the release, and will conclude when funds run out or six months after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the pandemic.
Heartland Forward says it is launching a public awareness campaign including paid media and coordinated community outreach through state agencies and local organizations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how many Arkansans still lack internet access, and how critical it is to invest in closing the digital divide in our state,” Hutchinson said. “Internet access is a crucial component to the future of our state and its economy, and I’m grateful to Heartland Forward for partnering with us to ensure eligible Arkansans know this opportunity for affordable, accessible internet service exists.”
According to the release, a household is eligible for the program if one member of the household meets at least one of the following criteria:
- has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or the FCC’s Lifeline program.
- approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch or breakfast program.
- received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year.
- experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough since Feb. 29, 2020.
- meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
The release says those eligible can enroll in the program in several different ways.
If they do not have access to the internet, they can sign up through a participating broadband provider or by calling (833) 511-0311 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. any day of the week to request a mail-in application and more information about the program.
If they do have access to the internet, they can apply online at getemergencybroadband.org.
Additional information about the EBB is also available on the FCC’s website.