Low-cost internet at home can “level the playing field” for families and individuals who are struggling financially, said De’Kendrea Stamps, who sees many people coming to the East Madison Community Center to use its computer lab and wireless internet to search for jobs or work on homework.
Stamps, the center’s assistant director, said an internet package for low-income families being offered by Charter Communications can help bridge the “digital divide” between those who can easily afford internet access and those who can’t.
Charter began offering its Spectrum Internet Assist package earlier this year for $14.99 per month to families in all of its service regions who qualify for the National School Lunch Program or its Community Eligibility Provision and seniors over age 65 with Supplemental Security Income.
The internet assist package exceeds the Federal Communications Commission’s threshold for high-speed internet access at 30 Megabits per second (Mbps), but is slower than Charter Spectrum’s standard internet package with speeds at 100 Mbps, which costs $44.99 per month.
The center has partnered with Charter to spread awareness about the service, which Stamps said can improve quality of life.
Internet access enables people to search for jobs or housing, find other services their families may need and be more connected with family and friends, Stamps said.
Many people aren’t always able to access free computer labs, like the one at the community center, because of conflicting schedules. Stamps said she’s seen many people gathered outside the community center after hours to access its free wireless service.
“It’s very clear that people need it in their homes,” she said. “I think it’s really awesome that they’re treating internet as a necessity, not a luxury.”
Adults aren’t the only ones who benefit from low-cost internet, Stamps said. Many children need to access the internet to complete homework assignments or study, and a lack of access may impede their success at school.
The East Madison Community Center received a $1,000 grant from Charter on Friday to expand its youth achievement program. Charter also awarded nonprofit DANEnet a $5,000 grant to expand its program of classes on computer skills.
DANEnet director Alyssa Kenney said the grant would be used to bring a new class to the East Madison Community Center and to set up a technology “fix-it clinic” for people to bring laptops, cellphones and other devices that may need repairs.
Kenney said some families may still have difficulty taking on another bill of $14.99 per month, but most families who have internet access often save money in other costs, such as transportation or postage.