Orange County’s major internet service providers have began programs to offer free or reduced internet access for families so students can continue learning at home.
As campuses remain closed for the foreseeable future amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, educators or moving to distance learning options to support academic continuity. According to the latest Census figures, almost 90 percent of households in the county have broadband internet access. Still, in a region of almost 500,000 public schools students, that could leave tens of thousands of students not connected to the internet.
Districts have been distributing thousands of Chromebooks and other internet-ready devices to help students stay connected. Families are encouraged to check with their local school or district to see if they’ll offer additional internet resources through partnerships they may have entered with service providers.
Additionally, major internet providers are also working with local governments and community organizations hoping to bridge this digital divide. Here is information on services offered by providers:
AT&T: Income eligible customers who sign up for the Access by AT&T program by April 30 will receive two free months of service. Click here for more information.
Comcast Xfinity: Income eligible costumers will receive two months of free internet if they subscribe by April 30 through the company’s Internet Essentials program. Click Here for more information.
Cox Communications: Through May 15, Cox is offering the first two months free to new customers of Connect2Compete, Cox’s low-cost internet product for families with school-aged children who are enrolled in low-income assistance programs ensuring digital equity for students without internet at home. Schools are being asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org with a list of eligible low-income students that currently do not have an internet connection. Click here for more information.
Spectrum: Beginning Monday, March 16, Spectrum will offer free access to internet and WiFi for 60-days for new Pre-K to 12, college student and teacher households who don’t currently have internet or WiFi service. Click here for more information.
Verizon: Starting April 3, Verizon will also offer two months of waived internet and voice service charges for current Lifeline customers and a new affordable internet option for low-income households. Click here for more information.
For information on providers not listed here, contact each individually. Also, some of these providers have waived data caps and pledged to not disconnect service for late payment for existing customers. Some have also provided free Wifi hotspots throughout communities.
Note: Please read terms and conditions for each provider that offers free or reduced services. Some are offering the free service as part of an introductory offer that includes lower-priced monthly fees once the free period has ended.