More than a million Michigan households could qualify for free Wi-Fi. Here’s how.
Need to Know
- A federal program already in place can get residents free or reduced high-speed Wi-Fi.
- The state is already working on expanding access to more than 200,000 households outside of coverage zones.
- Visit getinternet.gov/ to see if you qualify.
LANSING—If you get a text from the state of Michigan promising a sweet Wi-Fi deal, think twice before ignoring it. In Michigan, where three of 10 households lack a reliable high-speed internet connection, public-private partnerships are giving residents new ways to get Wi-Fi, and the state will be contacting residents to let them know if they qualify.
A new collaboration between the federal government and the private sector is bringing down internet costs among many major providers, including Xfinity and Spectrum. Last year, White House officials established the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which allows households at or below double the federal poverty guidelines—$55,500 for a household of four, $36,620 for a household of two, or $27,180 for an individual—to get free Wi-Fi or dramatically reduce their costs.
On Monday, Comcast—the parent company for Xfinity and one of the biggest internet providers in MI—announced a high-speed internet package that’s now available nationally for $29.95. It includes a cable modem, 100 mbps in speed, and unlimited data. For people who meet the federal requirements under the ACP, the package would be free, since the ACP gives low-income households a discount of $30 a month and a bigger for people on tribal lands.
Other companies have rolled out similar offerings.
“By working with our partners at all levels of government and within the community, we can accelerate our efforts to ensure everyone has access to the Internet and the skills they need to excel in today’s digital economy,” Broderick Johnson, executive vice president of public policy and digital equity at Comcast, said in a post on the company’s website.
As of February, more than 10 million people had enrolled in the ACP, which is funded through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Act that passed last year. In Michigan, more than a million households either don’t have high-speed internet access or face barriers in affordability, digital literacy, and adoption.
People without internet access get lower grades in school, feel more isolated, and can make less money, stats show. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has earmarked internet access as a focus for her administration.
“High-speed infrastructure is not a luxury anymore. It’s a necessity,” President Joe Biden said at the White House announcement.
Still, many people who qualify for high-speed internet programs either are not aware of or haven’t used them, which is one reason the White House held a press conference Monday.
“Today, too many families simply can’t afford to get connected even if there’s access to get connected, so they go without high-speed internet or they sacrifice other necessities to make it work,” Biden said.
Go to http://getinternet.gov/ to see if you qualify for ACP.
Federal agencies will be reaching out directly to people who qualify, such as those with Pell Grants or on Medicaid. Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) will also be sending texts to 1.5 million low-income residents who qualify for this new plan, according to the White House and confirmed by The ‘Gander. Those texts will be sent to people who’ve already opted into text alerts under the MI Bridges program, said MDHHS public information officer Bob Wheaton.
The department will primarily be reaching out to people already using any of Medicaid, the Healthy Michigan Plan, the Food Assistance Program, childcare subsidies, and other low-income assistance programs.
When the state sends out these texts, the message will include a link to the ACP website and clearly identify the MDHHS as the sender. Residents won’t need to respond with any personal information.
“The text messages will clearly identify that they are from MDHHS and provide a direct link that makes it easy to apply for the ACP,” Wheaton said.
Meanwhile, the state is working alongside telecommunications companies to expand broadband connectivity to regions that are without service. Using money from the infrastructure act passed last year, Michigan funded the new High-Speed Internet Office, and additional projects have been underway to both encourage residents to get cheap or reduced Wi-Fi and expand access. The High-Speed Internet Office has been in contact with other agencies to inform residents about how they can get internet access cheaply, officials said.
To see if you qualify, go to http://getinternet.gov/.
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