United Way of Tarrant County wants to help low-income residents access affordable internet.
The nonprofit recently received $350,000 to raise awareness of a discount internet program in targeted ZIP codes.
The Affordable Connectivity Program, created by the Federal Communications Commission, provides eligible households with a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service and a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop or tablet.
United Way is the only organization within Tarrant County to receive money for this effort this year, said Chris Alvarado, vice president of community investment.
“This is one opportunity for us to utilize resources to address one of the most significant problems — the digital divide,” Alvarado said.
Where to sign up
Eligible residents may sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program here.
As of 2022, over 7 million Texans living in 3 million households did not have access to a broadband connection, according to the Texas Broadband Development Office.
The United Way of Tarrant County hopes to begin the outreach efforts within the next month, Alvarado said.
Other than hosting community events, United Way of Tarrant County will also use a website to market the service as well as send mailers to 125,000 households to spread the word about the program.
United Way of Tarrant County hired Morgan Johnson as the program’s outreach coordinator to oversee the effort.
Which ZIP codes will United Way of Tarrant County focus on?
The nonprofit will target these nine ZIP codes for its Affordable Connectivity Program efforts:
The nonprofit hopes to enroll 1,750 households in the Affordable Connectivity Program over the next two years, Alvarado said.
Kenny Mosley, executive director of Renaissance Heights Foundation, said he was invited to participate in a stakeholder meeting Aug. 15 with U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and Federal Communications Commission chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to further expand the program.
Mosley’s foundation works directly with residents, business leaders and community partners to strengthen Renaissance Heights. He hasn’t formed an official partnership with United Way of Tarrant County yet, but they are meeting to discuss the next steps on potentially bringing affordable broadband connections to households, he said.
United Way of Tarrant County started paying more attention to the impact that not having access to the internet had on families during COVID-19.
While the Tarrant Area Food Bank offered online updates about available resources during the pandemic, it had to rely on word of mouth to reach residents without internet service, Alvarado said.
Around the same time, Congress began to push forward efforts to provide affordable internet access.
“As so much of our lives moved online, it became crystal clear that broadband has become indispensable for work, school, health care and so much more,” Veasey and Rosenworcel wrote in an Aug. 23 column for The Dallas Morning News. “Yet too many people struggle to get connected because they struggle to pay for this essential service.”
In a discussion with the teachers in his neighborhood, Mosley said he learned that while Fort Worth ISD has provided technology devices for students of low-income families, some of them didn’t bring it home, because they don’t have access to the internet.
“The internet is no longer a luxury,” he said. “It’s a necessity for everyone, especially families.”
Dang Le is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.