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Free or low-cost program ending leaving thousands in Wisconsin without internet access

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Posted at 10:20 AM, Feb 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-13 11:20:26-05

In Wisconsin, one in six households are at risk of losing their internet as a free or low-cost federal program runs out of money. The Affordable Connectivity Program which was started in 2021 is expected to be out of funding in April.

Nolan Crees moved to Milwaukee a few weeks ago and spends his days at places like the library or coffee shops searching for a job.

“I still don’t have internet at home,” said Crees.

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Nolan Crees moved to Milwaukee a few weeks ago and spends his days at places like the library or coffee shops searching for a job.

He can’t afford it. He had hoped to use the federal Affordable Connectivity Program to get it. The program offers discounts of $30 - $75 a month on internet.

Harold Heard used the program for several months until he got WiFi with his work.

"It helps people who financially can't do it. Who are financially not stable to pay for internet. Who can't get internet. Sometimes these internet companies ask, do you have good credit history and not everybody has a good credit history,” said Heard.

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Harold Heard used the program for several months until he got WIFI with his work.

But the program is almost out of money and with no additional funding in sight it stopped accepting applications on February 8th. Too late for Crees to get it. So now his job hunt means searching for WiFi then applying for work.

"I even have the Google drive documents and you can't edit those without the internet unless you pre-set it up. So I can't edit my resume at home. I can't even type on it,” said Crees.

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Computer available for check out at the Milwaukee Public Library.

According to the White House, in Wisconsin, nearly 420,000 people are currently enrolled. Across the country there are 23 million households in the program. The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin says the program will until it runs out of money which will likely be in April 2024, but each person in the program will be notified on the exact date.

The Milwaukee Public Library is now reminding people of other options.

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Emily Vieyra from the Milwaukee Public Library talks about options for internet both in the library and for check out.

“Milwaukee Public Library has Chromebooks and internet hotspots that can be checked out. You can get on a waiting list and pick them up at any library in the whole county. And also a lot of suburban libraries offer hotspots, some have laptops for check out or in-house use,” said Emily Vieyra from the Milwaukee Public Library.

The Milwaukee Public Library has around 800 to check out. Otherwise, you can use their WiFi with your own device, which is what Crees says he will continue to do.

“I’m here at the library and I am looking for jobs on my computer,” said Crees.