New pilot program expands affordable connectivity for Delawareans

DELAWARE – It’s a move to advance digital equity in Delaware. Monday, Governor John Carney announcing a pilot program to ensure all Delawareans have affordable internet access.

It’s a new pilot program in partnership with national non-profit Education Superhighway and five municipalities statewide. “To date we’ve mostly worked on the physical connections in Central Delaware and Western Sussex County. This will really address that affordability problem,” Governor Carney said.

The Affordable Connectivity Program is part of President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure plan that looks to eliminate barriers like affordability for broadband service.

More than 140,000 Delaware households are eligible for the program, with benefits including up to $30 in bill credits or even completely free services with participating providers.

Yet, we’re told only around 20% of households have actually taken advantage of these savings. “Through our work across the country we’ve identified 3 key barriers with one being awareness. People don’t know the program exists even a year into it,” Education Superhighway Vice President of Government Affairs Adeyinka Ogunlegan said.

“Also, there are some enrollment challenges. Applying for the program online primarily can be a challenge if you’re not used to navigating the internet generally or having to fill out an application online that takes 30-45 minutes can be a barrier.”

The last barrier is trust, understanding these opportunities are real and available to those families.

That’s where local governments step in, working with community organizations to build relationships with families to get and keep them connected. “After school, a lot of students from Georgetown Middle School will actually come down Pine Street and they sit right outside the Georgetown Library to tap off of the free wi-fi there. This program will hopefully give them the ability to do their homework at home where they should be,” Georgetown City Manager Gene Dvnorick said.

“For me, the education of our young children is so critically important, and this connectivity will help us make that happen,” Governor John Carney said.

Those we spoke with say this move not only shows Delaware’s commitment to closing the digital divide. “It is about economic opportunity, it’s about virtual learning, it’s about applying for jobs, and it’s about participating in the 21st century economy. We want to make sure that every household in the country has the opportunity to do that,” Ogulegan said.

We’re told the broadband office of Delaware has officially been established and will soon be in operations.

Other municipalities apart of the pilot program include Dover, Milford, Seaford, and Wilmington.

Current service providers include Comcast and Verizon.

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