Low-cost internet isn’t easy to obtain for low-income Americans

Speedometer with Mbps on it

While broadband companies, such as Charter and Comcast, previously vowed to help low-income individuals throughout the coronavirus pandemic, taking them up on those offers has proven difficult for many. According to a recent New York Times report, many Americans hoping to take advantage of Charter and Comcast’s free and low-cost internet have faced a multitude of issues, ranging from long wait times to unexpected charges.

Charter and Comcast introduced free and low-cost internet in response to the coronavirus, announcing they were dedicated to ensuring all Americans had internet access throughout the pandemic, regardless of income status. Since those announcements, schools and community organizations have been steadfast in promoting the offers.

According to those who’ve tried to take advantage of these offers, doing so has been incredibly difficult. Many inquiring customers have endured hourslong waits on the phone, leading some to simply give up before speaking to a customer service agent. Meanwhile, other customers have been troubled by unexpected bills and lack of broadband access altogether.

One family interviewed by The New York Times had signed up for broadband services but later received a notice in the mail claiming they owed $120. Another customer interviewed shared having seen an unexpected debt appear in their Charter account.

“This is a fear for our families,” Isai Sanchez told reporters. “How am I supposed to pay $120 right now for a service that I can’t afford?”

Further complicating the issue, Charter and Comcast are not available in every corner of the country, leading many to question if they even have access to free or discounted broadband services.

Angela Siefer, the Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, said, “We need a more stable solution that doesn’t have all the gaps in eligibility and delivery that these free and reduced offers provide us.”

Meanwhile, Charlie Douglas, a spokesperson for Comcast said the company had “the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program for low-income Americans.”

“We’ve been working on the challenge of tackling the digital divide for nearly a decade,” he added.

Those in rural America are no stranger to a lack of broadband access, and low-income families have experienced the same. Fortunately, Charter and Comcast aren’t the only ones attempting to remedy the issue. Just last week, U.S. Senators introduced a bill to stop internet shut-offs during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Vermont has introduced a plan that would mean broadband for all living within the Green Mountain State