A technician installs a high-speed internet cable. AARP bulletin

A federal program is funding a $30-per-month internet service discount for qualifying households.

Households with income of up to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which subsidizes high-speed internet known as broadband.

Eligible incomes in Maine and most states are $27,180 a year for a household of one; $36,620 for two; $46,060 for three; and $55,500 for a household of four. Only one discount is allowed per household. People might also qualify for a discount on devices, such as a new laptop.

Those who already have a broadband provider can simply call and ask for the discount. Callers might be asked to provide proof of income. Those who have not been able to afford internet service but want to sign, up or know of an older relative who qualifies, can also call and ask for it.

To apply, go to www.affordableconnectivity.gov to see eligibility guidelines for households of up to eight people.

“It’s something that we’re very happy to see,” said Myles Smith, executive director of the Maine Broadband Coalition. “Pretty much every Maine internet provider is participating, but each one does it differently.”



Myles Smith

Some companies offer service for as little as $30 a month, which means those eligible households would pay nothing, he said.

The Maine Broadband Coalition is a “big-tent” organization made up mostly of nonprofits and small businesses, he said.

The group has worked formally since 2018 to expand broadband — mostly to rural locations and older people — and to advocate for better internet service in Maine.

The goals are “higher-quality internet and improving digital equity,” Smith said.

That means expanding and improving internet service to older people.

“That is absolutely, absolutely important,” Smith said. “It’s one of the things (the Maine Broadband Coalition) is pushing for. We know it’s so important for people in so many ways.”


For example, it is getting more difficult for an older rural person to see a specialist in their area.

“If you have a great internet connection,” he said, “you don’t need to drive two hours to see a specialist.”

Instead, patients can meet with doctors online from home.

Another benefit is allowing elders to age in place without feeling isolated. If they have good internet connections, their children and grandchildren can spend more time with them. They can link up and work remotely while visiting and helping to take care of their aging parents and grandparents, Smith said.

He said the National Digital Equity Center, based in Machias, provides online courses to teach Mainers to access benefits, including the Affordable Connectivity Program.

“If a senior has never had internet access before, they teach them to do things such as have a video call with their grandchildren,” Smith said, adding it is all free and the center works with libraries, where people can get local help.


The $14.2 billion Federal Communications Commission program, which became available late last year, replaces the 2021, pandemic-inspired Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, in which almost 14.8 million households were participating as of Dec. 19, according to an AARP bulletin.

Under that program, the percentage of internet subscribers 50 or older rose as a share of participants, according to data as of Nov. 1, the latest available.

Last year, when the old program had 7.1 million subscribers, about two in five were 50 or older, according to AARP.

According to that agency, the rate of older subscribers has grown to more than 43%, including more than 2.4 million 65- to 84-year-olds and more than 190,000 subscribers 85 or older.

President Joe Biden has likened the need for high-speed internet to how his grandfather talked about the need to have a telephone, according to the bulletin.

“It’s pretty consequential,” Biden said. “High-speed internet is not a luxury any longer. It’s a necessity.”

Smith agreed.

“It’s just as important as roads, water and sewer,” he said. “It’s the infrastructure of the future.”

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