Access to the internet is a major concern across the United States, with many individuals lacking the means to connect to the World Wide Web. As more lines are laid to improve access, affordability and literacy become the next challenges, according to officials. In Charleston, leaders are working to address these concerns by providing people with the aid they need through the Affordable Connectivity Program.
This federal program aims to help individuals pay for internet services and devices. In Charleston, the local library is working to educate people about the program and assist them in signing up. Mayor John Tecklenburg explains that while many people may live in areas with good quality internet lines, they may still lack access to the internet due to cost constraints. The Affordable Connectivity Program aims to address this affordability gap by providing financial assistance to those in need.
“This is about affordability also, so there are folks out there who may not be able to afford that fancy internet service that the good providers provide. And this closes that gap,” Tecklenburg says.
Individuals who are already part of government programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, housing vouchers, or have a veteran pension immediately qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program. The program provides up to $30 per month towards an internet bill, as well as a one-time $100 discount on a device. Individuals can also qualify based on the income chart.
Angela Craig, Executive Director of the Charleston County Public Library, emphasizes the importance of device accessibility. During the pandemic, when library buildings were closed, Craig found that individuals without devices were unable to access the library’s Wi-Fi. She notes that while libraries can serve as a source of access and technology, it is essential for individuals to have the means to connect from home.
In addition to offering assistance with the Affordable Connectivity Program application, library staff can help people learn to use their new devices. Kathy Schwarting, CEO of Palmetto Care Connections, notes that digital literacy efforts are a significant part of improving internet access.
“We need to make sure that people actually know how to use a device, know how to use the internet safely,” Schwarting says.
Schwarting’s comments highlight the fact that improving internet access is not just about providing physical access to the internet, but also about ensuring that individuals have the skills to use the internet effectively and safely. Digital literacy is an essential component of this effort, and organizations like the Charleston County Public Library are working to ensure that individuals have the necessary skills to navigate the online world.
Improving access to the internet is a critical concern in today’s world, where so much of daily life takes place online. The Affordable Connectivity Program is a vital resource for individuals who might not otherwise have access to the internet. By providing financial assistance and education, officials and community organizations are working to bridge the digital divide and ensure that everyone has the means to connect to the World Wide Web.