City Hall

Getting Connected: The FCC Is Offering Internet Subsidies for Some Dallas Residents

Dallas is working on multiple measures to improve internet connectivity including promoting an FCC subsidy program
Dallas is working on multiple measures to improve internet connectivity including promoting an FCC subsidy program Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
Earlier this week, the Dallas City Council announced that internet subsidies for city residents are available through a Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program.

It provides several benefits, including a $30 monthly subsidy to aid with internet bills as well as a one-time purchase benefit of up to $100 per household for the purchase of a computer, laptop or tablet.

Dallas has had connectivity problems in the past, and in 2021, it was one of the major U.S. cities with the highest rate of households lacking internet access.

According to a study by Pew Research, racial minorities and those with lower levels of education and income are less likely to have broadband service and that those demographics plus younger Americans are the ones most likely to rely on their smartphones for internet access.

Another Pew Research report shows that the percentage of Americans who rely on their smartphones for internet access has roughly doubled since 2013, meaning some students have to use their phones to complete homework intended for larger computers.

In an effort to rectify these issues, last August, in coordination with the Dallas Independent School District, the city commissioned the creation of a Broadband and Digital Equity Strategic Plan outlining the connectivity problems and possible solutions. They have also created an information site, Bridging the Digital Divide, that includes resources and information on Wi-Fi hotspot areas.

Genesis D. Gavino, chief of staff to the city manager, said by email that the announcement of the FCC program is a part of the city’s continued effort to expand internet access to those that need it.

“The City is amplifying the availability of the subsidy provided by a federal program that is administered by the FCC because we recognize that access to the internet was identified as a need for our residents,” Gavino explained.

However, according to the FCC site, in order to receive the benefits, a household must apply for the program and have an income that is at or below 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines, or have one person in the household that meets at least one of four eligibility requirements.

Those requirements include receiving a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year, being eligible for participating in a provider’s low-income program, participating in certain assistance programs like SNAP or Medicaid or participating in one of the assistance programs and living on qualifying tribal lands.

To apply, residents need to go to AffordableConnectivity.gov and submit an application, or print one to fill out and mail. Then, contact their provider to select a plan and the discount will be applied to their bill.

Dallas has also partnered with the Internet for All Coalition to provide Internet for Dallas, a site to help  residents to find free or low-cost internet options.

These programs are steps toward getting connectivity to families in need of internet access, particularly Hispanic families, in Dallas and its surrounding areas.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a January press release that the Affordable Connectivity Program is here to help.

“I’m proud of our efforts to do so because the reality is that for too many families across the country paying for their internet bill can mean making sacrifices in other parts of their budget,” Rosenworcel said in the release.

“There are still too many households making the difficult choice between paying for gas and groceries or paying for a broadband bill so that their kids can keep up with schoolwork, so that a family member can attend a needed telehealth appointment, or so that they can work remotely," she added. "Now with these rules in place, the FCC has new tools to support these families and reach those most at risk of digital disconnection for years to come."
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Kate Pezzulli, an editorial fellow for the Observer, is a graduate student at the Mayborn School of Journalism at UNT. Besides storytelling, she likes sailing, working on Jeeps, camping, potting and baking. Voted No. 1 friend in an apocalypse.
Contact: Kate Pezzulli