Some Burlington residents who live in buildings served by Burlington Telecom could be getting high speed internet service for less than a dollar per month under a new program, officials announced Wednesday.
Burlington Telecom’s Lifeline program takes advantage of a federal program that was initially designed to help low-income households get telephone service. After that program was expanded to include internet service in 2016, Burlington Telecom opted to take advantage of it.
Lifeline is open anyone who qualifies for SNAP benefits, public housing assistance, Medicaid and a number of other low-income assistance programs. Burlington Telecom is offering a $9.25 monthly credit to qualifying customers.
Another Burlington Telecom program, Edu-Net, has been in place for years offering internet to low-income households with school children for $9.95 per month. That program also offered discounted computers and software to qualifying customers. Burlington Telecom General Manager Stephen Barraclough said the Edu-Net program is also being expanded to include everyone who is eligible for the Lifeline credit.
“That means that you can actually have 25 [megabits per second] symmetrical connectivity for a net 70 cents a month,” he said. “Plus a computer and software for another 50 bucks.”
Noelle MacKay, the director of Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office, said the combination of programs will help low-income Burlington Telecom customers be more successful members of the community.
“I want you to think about how many times you, at home, use your internet,” MacKay said, laying out a series of potential situations: “You’ve got a high-schooler that wants to go to college and you want to do prep. You are working two jobs and you want to do one, and you want to do job searches outside of your daily jobs. You’ve got a middle-schooler and they’ve got to do research on a project that you knew nothing about. What do most people do? They go to the internet. They do it after hours.”
MacKay said libraries help close that gap, but they aren’t as flexible as home internet.
“So [Lifeline] is a program that is about accessibility, equity, and making sure that everyone in our community has the opportunity and the resources they need to have a happy, healthy home life and have access to all the economic opportunities that everyone else has,” she said.
Not all homes in Burlington can get Burlington Telecom service, however. Mayor Miro Weinberger said construction obstacles such as underground ledge made it difficult to serve 100 percent of the buildings in Burlington, but he said city officials have made progress in recent years. Weinberger said Burlington Telecom has expanded service to 90 percent of the downtown locations that weren’t served at the end of the system’s initial buildout.