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Limited affordable internet options for low-income families

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: September 22, 2020 06:20 PM
Created: September 22, 2020 05:19 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — With so many students learning from home, reliable internet service is a must. Both Spectrum and Frontier offer programs for low-income families but some of those families tell News10NBC trying to prove they qualify and get signed up is quite a task.

“It’s not a luxury anymore, it's a necessity,” says Leverett Copeland of reliable internet service.

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Copeland has two RCSD remote learners at home and while they get MiFi devices from the district for classes, “you only have so much data a month… after she does schooling, she does research, she likes to read, she likes to watch TV,” he explained.

The Copeland family already has Spectrum internet service but the $80 monthly bill is getting too tough to manage.

“Financially, some money was taken from my budget so basically we reached out to Spectrum and we were told that they do have a program for Internet assist,” Copeland said.

The program offers internet at a reduced rate to low-income families and seniors who qualify but the Copelands say Spectrum is making them jump through hoops to sign up.

The family sent in paperwork from the Department of Social Services proving they qualify but then they were asked to email or fax additional documentation from the school district.

 They did that too and then, “when my wife called, she was told that basically since we were able to pay that we should be able to keep paying and we weren't able to get on the Internet assist. The only way we could do that is to get off of it, get rid of the Internet for a month and then try to reapply which would cause my daughter and my granddaughter to fall behind in school,” Copeland said.

A spokeswoman for Spectrum tells News10NBC she’ll look into Copeland’s case specifically, but the family’s concern isn’t just for its own bottom line, but for other low-income families who aren’t as persistent as they’ve been, “during this time of pandemic and hard times, they should be reaching out in the neighborhoods more to let people know that they support. To tell them it’s basically not about the money, the deep end of how much money they make but how many lives they touch and how much they can help and educate and push forward this next generation,” Copeland said.

News10NBC surveyed the internet provides in our area:

  • Greenlight Networks offers only its standard $50/month plan for the communities it serves.   
  • Spectrum offers its internet assist program. Click here for further information and to see if you qualify. The provider is also offering a “Remote Education” promotion for NEW Spectrum Internet customers. Households with K-12th graders, college students and/or educators can get 60 days of free service. To enroll, new customers can call 844-310-1198.
  • Frontier says it has the following programs:
    • The K12 Connected @ Home Initiative — Frontier Communications is a partner in a national effort to connect more students for remote and hybrid learning, through a unique partnership with national non-profit EducationSuperHighway, Frontier Communications is joining regional and national internet service providers in launching programs that enable interested school districts to identify students without broadband and purchase service for those from low-income families. Click here for more information. 
    • Low-income consumers can participate in the Federal Lifeline program. Lifeline provides subscribers a discount on monthly telephone service or broadband Internet access service. Details are available here.


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