Saturday, July 31, 2021

Play

Educators' unions call for efforts to ensure in-person learning keeps students, teachers, families, and staff safe; and an update on hate crimes by state.

Play

Congress passes Capitol security funding; House Freedom Caucus members want Cheney, Kinzinger out of GOP conference; Schumer closes a deal to advance $3.5 trillion reconciliation package; and a new report says investor-owned utilities try to block rooftop solar.

Temporary Program Can Help WI Residents with Internet Bills

Play

Monday, May 24, 2021   

TOMAHAWK, Wis. - Wisconsin residents struggling to afford internet service during the pandemic can turn to a federal program for help. Supporters say it addresses a component of broadband access that is sometimes overlooked.

Through its Emergency Broadband Benefit, the Federal Communications Commission provides service discounts of up to $50 a month for qualifying households, and $75 a month for homes on tribal lands.

Sue Dierksen, who lives in north-central Wisconsin, said slow service causes many limitations, including her family's ability to use telemedicine. And all around her, Dierksen said affordability is a concern for many residents, including those over 50.

"You couple that with what's going on with prescription drugs and health care," said Dierksen. "Something's got to give."

In Wisconsin, the average internet cost per megabit is $4.32, which is higher than the national rate.

People are urged to sign up quickly, as the Emergency Broadband Benefit will be in force either until its funds are gone, or six months after the pandemic is over. Eligible households can apply through participating internet service providers.

In recent years, state and federal leaders have made efforts to address broadband gaps, including infrastructure needs in rural areas. But cost can still be intimidating for people to even sign up for service, and AARP Wisconsin's State Director Sam Wilson said this program makes that less of a worry.

"We're hoping this program will help a lot of folks take that initial step," said Wilson. "Connect them more with family members, connect them more with services in their community."

During the crisis, Wilson noted people with internet access could rely on options like Amazon deliveries to avoid day-to-day disruptions. But those without service or with slow download speeds saw their world turned upside-down in a flash.

Dierksen said she feels it's important to make sure all parts of the state stay connected - because when you need help, internet access usually plays a role.

"Every state agency, and probably almost every county agency," said Dierksen, "relies on you using the internet to do their work and to communicate with them, as does Social Security and Medicare."

The program coincides with Gov. Tony Evers directing $100 million of COVID-relief money to broadband expansion grants. He also wants the Legislature to commit $200 million to improve access, but it's uncertain if Republican leaders will approve that request.

Disclosure: AARP Wisconsin contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


get more stories like this via email
In addition to roof repairs and other home improvements to lower utility bills, a Michigan League for Public Policy report recommends expanding utility-shutoff protections to include households with young children. (Adobe Stock)

Environment

LANSING, Mich. - High utility costs are a major burden for Michigan's low-income residents, and a new study says they have an impact on their health…


Environment

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A new report shows an effort by investor-owned utilities in the Sunshine State to block the growth of rooftop solar. The …

Health and Wellness

By Troy Pierson / Broadcast version by Mary Schuermann reporting for the Kent State-Ohio News Connection Collaboration. As marijuana becomes more …


Across the United States, 46 states have laws allowing for harsher punishment for crimes based on bias. (Ludk/Adobe Stock)

Social Issues

SALT LAKE CITY - With rising numbers of people targeted in hate crimes and related violence, a new report analyzes the hate-crime laws in each state…

Social Issues

BOSTON - Educators' unions are calling on the state to support their efforts to ensure in-person learning in the fall keeps students, teachers…

According to AARP Connecticut, 47% of family caregivers have had at least one financial setback, such as having less money for retirement or savings, or cutting back on their own healthcare spending. (Adobe Stock)

Social Issues

HARTFORD, Conn. - In Connecticut, more than 460,000 people care for close friends or family members who can't manage on their own - and their …

Social Issues

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Millions of Americans soon could find eviction notices on their front doors, but New Mexico renters will not be among them - as …

Health and Wellness

CONCORD, N.H. - New Hampshire advocates for affordable healthcare access want Congress to lower prescription costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate …

 

Phone: 303.448.9105 Toll Free: 888.891.9416 Fax: 208.247.1830 Your trusted member and audience-supported news source since 1996 Copyright 2021