A phone company consortium in the Metro East (Illinois) portion of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area has launched a pilot program to provide a year of high speed internet access to rural, low-income residents. Seven phone companies covering 35 counties in Western and Southern Illinois have teamed with the consumer advocacy group Citizens Utility Board.
More from the Belleville News-Democrat:
One of companies is Harrisonville Telephone Co. in Waterloo, which will provide qualifying customers with a refurbished computer for $50 and a year’s worth of high-speed Internet service for as low as $9.95 a month. The pilot project, called Better Broadband, Better Lifeline, is one of 14 in the nation.
Nonprofit advocacy group Broadband Illinois is managing the program, which is receiving $1.5 million from the Federal Communications Commission from savings created by reforms in its own assistance programs.
Broadband Illinois Executive Director Drew Clark said his organization has worked with the seven telecommunications providers to bring high-speed Internet to low-income customers who have no online access. Of the total funding, Harrisonville Telephone has been given $90,587.
“Our goal is to get better broadband to better the lives for people across the state,” Clark said. “One key aspect is to get education to people about broadband’s benefits.”
In a statement released by Harrisonville Telephone Co., President and Chief Executive Officer H.R. Gentsch said the Waterloo phone company believes low-income rural Illinois residents deserve the same access to high-speed Internet as the rest of the state.
“This is an excellent opportunity for the families in our service territory, so we encourage people to find out if they qualify,” Gentsch said.
To qualify, applicants must live within the telephone company’s service area and have no access to Internet service for at least the past 60 days. Those eligible must also receive some form of government assistance, including Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Low Income Home Energy Assistance, Free or Reduced School Lunch, Supplemental Security Income and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Those living in certain ZIP codes also may qualify for free computer training. Those eligible must reside in Columbia (62236), Dupo (62239), East Carondelet (62240) and Valmeyer (62295).
Residents who want to see if they qualify can call 1-855-438-6693.
We at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog think this is a great idea for those consumers who cannot afford service from local providers such as Charter Communications.