CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The internet has become more of a necessity than a luxury, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new federal program is helping more people get and stay connected at a lower cost.

AARP is encouraging West Virginians to participate in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to access affordable high-speed internet during COVID-19. The Federal Communications Commission launched a nationwide $3.2 billion program for those struggling.

“There’s not an age limit. It is open to eligible West Virginians and eligible Americans that qualify for the funding and it’s primarily income base,” Tom Hunter, Associate State Director with AARP West Virginia said.

For those who do qualify, don’t get use to the extra help for too long.

“I think it’s big, but it’s temporary. I think it only has a 12-month opening because of COVID because we see all the reasons why the internet is extremely important to healthcare, telework and tele education.” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said.

Under this short-term program, West Virginians may be eligible for a discount on their high-speed internet service of up to $50 a month and a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer or tablet purchased through a participating provider.

“We’ve worked very closely with the WV legislature and with stakeholders across the state make that more of a reality for West Virginians and we look forward to the investments that are going to be coming into the state,” Hunter said.

About one-third of the Mountain State’s communities are undeserved, but this new initiative hopes to help all residents have access to the internet.

“We have many rural communities where because of the hills and hollers across the state, it has been difficult for many companies to step forward and make a significant investment,” Hunter.

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