It is a common myth that LGBT individuals are more affluent than the general population at large.
In fact, rural gays and lesbians often face poverty at higher rates than the general population. Furthermore, approximately 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT making them vastly overrepresented in the homeless population (LGBT individuals only make up about 4% of the general population).
As such, LGBT populations are especially vulnerable to being left behind and becoming victims of the digital divide (a term that refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don’t or have restricted access). Lack of affordable access to technology has been shown to have an impact on the social and economic opportunities of individuals and those with less access to technology are at a disadvantage when it comes to competing for jobs and education.
More generally, the FCC itself has stated that the Internet “is changing how we educate children, deliver health care, manage energy, ensure public safety, engage government, and access, organize and disseminate knowledge.” While many consumers understood the tremendous benefits that high-speed Internet could deliver, a sizeable number did not. According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of consumers without a home Internet connection in 2010 did not see a “major disadvantage” in being disconnected. Today, however, opinions have shifted. Two-thirds of those without a home connection say they face a major disadvantage in many areas, including job searches, accessing health information or connecting with government services.
Fortunately, there are some resources available for lower income individuals to be able to have access to modern technology at an affordable rate. Specifically, we highlight two programs by AT&T and Comcast, which may provide such access at reasonable rates for qualifying consumers.
AT&T has launched a new program called “Access from AT&T,” which is intended to help bring Internet access to qualifying households at a more affordable rate. The new program, which launched in April, will make home wireline Internet service available at new, lower prices to qualifying households in all 21 states in AT&T’s wireline footprint. AT&T’s program is offered to households in which at least 1 person participates in the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – or SNAP. AT&T will deliver a speed of 10Mbps, 5Mbps, or 3Mbps—whichever is the fastest available at the address. Customers assigned a speed tier of 10Mbps or 5Mbps will pay $10 per month, and those assigned 3Mbps will pay $5 per month. Qualifying households will not be required to pay installation or Internet equipment fees, including a modem, to participate in Access from AT&T, which will last a total of 4 years. Participants who sign-up for service in the final year will receive the discounted rates for 12 months. For more information about the program please go towww.att.com/access.
Comcast also has a similar program for their subscribers called Internet Essentials. According to Comcast, it’s Internet Essentials program is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program. It provides low-cost high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax; the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150; and multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person. Eligible families must have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program, including public, parochial, private, charter, and homeschooled students. For more information or to apply for the program, visit www.InternetEssentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376, or for Spanish, call 1-855-765-6995.
While neither of these programs standing alone will completely bridge the digital divide, for at-risk individuals in our community and low-income LGBT people, it could be a significant tool to reduce expenses or increase access to technology. If you qualify, both these programs are worth checking out.