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Affordable Information Superhighway: Program Offers Low-Cost Internet

AT&T is offering low-cost Internet service to qualifying North Carolina families. (eltpics/Flickr)
AT&T is offering low-cost Internet service to qualifying North Carolina families. (eltpics/Flickr)
April 27, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. - Home Internet is no longer a luxury. Many people consider it a necessity for North Carolina families as they go to school, work and lead their daily lives, but until now, the monthly cost of the service has been prohibitive for many families.

That's changing with a new program offered by AT&T that offers online access for as little as $5 a month. Josh Gelinas, a spokesman for the communications giant, explained why it is offering a low-cost option.

"An Internet connection has the ability to change lives," he said, "and access from AT&T will enable low-income households to apply for jobs online, connect with family and friends, research health information, complete an online education and much more. We feel that's very important."

AT&T's program is part of an agreement made with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) when the company acquired Direct TV in 2015. The program is based on income eligibility, and the company will waive installation and Internet equipment fees for qualifying individuals.

Sharon Goodson, executive director of the North Carolina Community Action Association, said the program will be valuable to thousands in the state and help them advance in life.

"For many of the families that we serve, affordability is a factor," she said, "and this service is valuable to us because it will allow us to connect students to the information that they need for papers and projects as well as being able to connect families to the tools and the resources they need to be able to better manage their finances."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 74 percent of all households report using the Internet. Gelinas said the widespread use of the technology makes it a necessity as people try to compete in the modern world.

"We believe that access to the internet is something that is definitely going to - already has - improved our economy, education, health care," he said.

Census data also indicates that internet use is significantly lower for households with incomes of less than $25,000 a year. Last year, President Obama announced a national initiative to promote fast and affordable broadband access in more communities across the country.

Census data is online at census.gov.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC