A metro-east phone company has launched a pilot program that will help provide a year of high-speed Internet service and computers to rural low-income residents
Illinois consumer telecommunications advocacy group Citizens Utility Board is assisting in the project along with seven phone companies that cover 35 counties in Western and Southern Illinois.
One of companies is Harrisonville Telephone Co. in Waterloo, which will offer qualifying customers with a refurbished computer for $50 and a year's worth of high-speed Internet service for as low as $9.95 a month. The pilot project, called Better Broadband, Better Lifeline, is one of 14 in the nation.
Another participating company is the Madison Telephone Co., which provides service to residents in northern Madison County and southern Macoupin County. The other five are Adams Telephone Cooperative, Cass Telephone Co., Mid Century Telephone Cooperative, Shawnee Telephone Co. and Wabash Telephone Cooperative.
Nonprofit advocacy group Broadband Illinois is managing the program, which is receiving $1.5 million from the Federal Communications Commission from savings created by reforms in its own assistance programs.
To qualify, applicants must live within the telephone company's service area and have no access to Internet service for at least the past 60 days. Those eligible must also receive some form of government assistance, including Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Low Income Home Energy Assistance, Free or Reduced School Lunch, Supplemental Security Income and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Those living in certain ZIP codes also may qualify for free computer training. Those eligible must reside in Columbia (62236), Dupo (62239), East Carondelet (62240) and Valmeyer (62295).
Residents who want to see if they qualify can call 1-855-438-6693.
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.