How to Get Free Broadband in Los Angeles If You’re a Low Income Resident

Tim Hebb lives in one of more than 1.6 million Los Angeles households that are eligible for the new federal high-speed Internet subsidy program. And according to the Biden administration, he should be able to use that $30 per month subsidy to get free access — Top 20 broadband providers in the US agreed to provide connections with download speeds up to 100 megabits per second for no more than the amount of the subsidy.

Indeed, Hebb got a free broadband connection from Spectrum, the cable TV operator that serves most of Los Angeles County, but it wasn’t easy. Broadband advocates say they are hearing complaints from other consumers who have become disillusioned with their efforts to use the new Affordable Connectivity Program subsidies.

Their weaknesses are one of the factors behind low percentage of qualified Californians that use Affordable Connectivity Program subsidies: 28% statewide and 32% in Los Angeles County. Another factor, however, is that the subsidies have not received much publicity. Some ISPs advertise them on their websites, but if you don’t have an internet connection, you won’t be able to see these promotions.

To raise awareness, state and local officials, consumer advocates and a number of major ISPs are planning to ramp up operations in August. Efforts will include providing information about the Affordable Connectivity Program directly to households enrolled in the Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and National School Lunch Programs, which are automatically eligible for the broadband subsidy.

But back to Hebb. He lives in an apartment building served by AT&T’s digital subscriber line, which Hebb says tops out at about 6 Mbps. The main alternative is Spectrum, but when I checked broadband cable company pagethe cheapest offer was a 300 Mbps connection for $50 a month.

Hebb persisted in this, knowing from a separate page on the Spectrum website that the company is offering the 100 Mbps tier for $30 to people who qualify for the Affordable Connectivity program. He called customer service where the rep “stole 15-20 minutes of my life that I will never get back by trying to sell me a $105+ package after I explicitly asked for a $30 ACP compatible Internet 100 plan.” / month,” he wrote in an email.

Eventually a rep told him the $30 plan was “not available,” Hebb said, so he emailed his situation to a reporter and at Spectrum. He soon got a call from a Spectrum sales manager in San Antonio who seemed eager to offer him a $30 plan. But “as the 21-minute call went on and he began to process the order,” Hebb wrote in an email, “the manager had to turn down the offer and eventually confirmed the results of my first two attempts at a deal – this is NOT available in SoCal because the minimum speed available here is 300Mbps, not 100Mbps.”

If it happened, it wasn’t true. The sales manager called Hebb back on Thursday with the good news: he had reached an agreement with Webb to provide a service that Spectrum offers to households through the Affordable Connectivity Program. “I didn’t bother to ask if this deal is available to anyone in Southern California who is ACP eligible,” Hebb said in an email. “Honestly, I think it’s a squeaky wheel deal.”

Dennis Johnson, a spokesman for Spectrum, said the $30/month deal is available to any eligible Southern California household, not just Hebb. He pointed to home page of the Spectrum website, which advertises the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) in the banner at the top and links to a page where you can check your eligibility. In fact, when you now call Spectrum Customer Service, a recorded message tells you about the ACP while you wait to speak to a representative.

Many consumers have come across customer service representatives who didn’t know what their own company was offering. However, Sunn Wright McPeak, president and CEO of the California Emerging Technology Foundation, said ISPs seem to be really trying to sell affordable connectivity program recipients more expensive tiers as they switch their services to higher speeds.

Hebb said: “I’m just wondering how many potential ACP-approved subscribers can actually get zero-cost service from any of the self-proclaimed ‘participating’ providers. There are so many barriers and hurdles that make these proposals effective bait and switch schemes, I think most people would give up.”

From my side, Coke, Comcast, The border as well as AT&T everyone says they’re offering Affordable Connectivity Program-qualified households up to 100Mbps download speeds (with AT&T technology, how long a subscriber is connected affects data speed) at no out-of-pocket cost. Cox also has a discounted service aimed at families with K-12 students in the home, offering a 100 Mbps connection for $10 per month.

Neither T-Mobile nor Verizon offer a $30/month version of their high-speed fixed wireless services. Instead of, T Mobile offers a discounted wireless data plan for smartphones, and Verizon offers a $30/month service at 300 Mbps for clients on their wired Fios networks on the east coast.

The bigger problem, according to McPeak, is how poorly the subsidies are advertised. Promoting discounts can make a huge difference, she said—thanks to efforts made by Los Angeles County officials in conjunction with the California New Technology Foundation in December, registrations increased by about 40%.

That’s why the state departments of technology and education, the state library, the California State Association. counties and the California New Technology Foundation conduct a coordinated outreach in August, culminating in August. 27 with statewide Affordable Connectivity enrollment events that will provide hands-on application assistance. Signing up for subsidies can be a problem for people who can’t afford internet services, McPeak said, given that you need to apply online.

How to know if you are a good fit

Affordable Connectivity subsidies are available to any household earning 200% or less federal poverty line, which is tied to household size. For one person, the threshold this year is $27,180. For a family of four, that’s $55,500.

But there’s an easier way to check your eligibility: You’re eligible if anyone in your household is enrolled in at least one of 10 types of social security programs, including CalFresh, Medi-Cal, Supplemental Security Income, Grants Pell and federal community programs. housing subsidies. Recipients of individual tribal allowance programs are also eligible for the subsidy, and tribal land subsidies are higher: $75 per month.

To find out if you are eligible or to apply, you can visit the White HouseGet Internetwhich can help you in this process. BUT mailing application also available on the Get Internet site; it can also be found in the available connection program. how to apply page. However, all of these resources require Internet access and a computer, tablet or smartphone.

If you have questions about how to apply but don’t have internet access, you can call the Program Help Center toll-free: (877) 384-2575, which offers consultations in English and Spanish.

Once your application is approved, the subsidies will go directly to your chosen broadband provider. To find it in your area, check list of programs, which can be searched by zip code or city. The list includes more than 90 participating providers near Los Angeles, although many of them are companies that resell services on one of the major wireless networks.

If you already have Internet access, your broadband provider may have their own subsidy application process. You should start by checking your Internet Service Provider.

The Affordable Connectivity Program has no expiration date, but Congress may decide to end funding at any time.

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This article was prepared by The Times Service Journalism team. Our mission is to make a difference in the lives of Southern Californians by publishing information that solves problems, answers questions and helps in decision making. We serve audiences in and around Los Angeles, including current Times subscribers and communities whose needs have historically not been met by our coverage.

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