The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted just how important it is to have access to broadband internet connection at home — for remote school or work, meetings and many other reasons — but affording internet can be difficult for many families.
According to data collected by the state, roughly 400,000 Orange County households qualify for free or discounted high-speed internet service through a federally funded initiative called the Affordable Connectivity Program. However, only 24 percent of eligible households have enrolled.
As students start the new school year, districts and county offices of education are working together to spread the message about the federal program’s Get Connected! initiative, which provides a monthly discount of up to $30 off home internet service to qualifying families of prekindergarten to adult students. For households on qualifying tribal lands, families could see a discount up to $75 per month. Additionally, there is a one-time discount of up to $100 for a computer or a tablet.
“This program provides internet access to families at a reduced cost that is affordable,” said Carl Fong, OCDE’s chief technology officer. “Internet access is critical for our students to continue their learning experience at home, and the Orange County Department of Education is committed to closing the digital divide here in Orange County.”
The discounts for internet access are set to begin on Aug. 27 for eligible families. Households enrolled in programs like Lifeline, CalFresh, Medi-Cal, Federal Pell Grant and school lunches qualify for the initiative.