COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Concerned residents, internet providers and task force members shared ideas and concerns about the future of broadband access in Columbia.
A Columbia task force held a public hearing for residents to share issues and suggestions with broadband internet access Wednesday night at City Hall. The Broadband Business Planning Task Force meeting concentrated on problems in low-income, under-served areas.
The task force was formed in 2019 to decide how to utilize fiber optic cables, which provide broadband internet, in Columbia.
Bruce Alspaugh, co-chair of the task force, said one possible solution to getting broadband to low-income areas is through a program called Broadband Emergency Benefits, which pays $50 a month to qualifying individuals to help with the cost of broadband internet.
“Many of the providers have told me that very few people are signing up for that, and I suspect it's because the people don't know about it," Alspaugh said. "So to the extent that we can get the word out, that can help a lot of low income people.”
The program is federally funded and will be extended due to the passing of the new infrastructure bill. However, Alspaugh said the program may start to pay less than $50 a month.
To qualify for the program, people need to be living below the poverty line or have lost a significant amount of income due to the pandemic. A full list of qualifying reasons can be found online. People can apply online, over the phone by calling 833-511-0311 or through the mail.