Closing the gap
Local students eligible for free internet service
For today’s students, a reliable broadband connection is no longer just a helpful tool but a necessity. Students use the internet for everything from checking and completing homework assignments to seeking tutoring and doing research.
In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2018, roughly 6 in 10 students said they used their home internet to do homework every day or almost every day. But 1 in 5 students from ages 13 to 17 also said they are often unable to complete homework assignments because they didn’t have a reliable internet connection.
Addressing that “homework gap” has become even more important over the last year as the coronavirus pandemic has forced many schools to close and placed a greater emphasis on remote learning. That is why North Alabama Electric Cooperative is proud to offer free internet access for eligible students through the Alabama Broadband Connectivity for Students program.
“A reliable internet connection is an essential tool for our students, and it has never been more important than it is today,” says NAEC General Manager Bruce Purdy. “With so many of our students dependent on distance learning, we are pleased to provide the service that will keep them connected to the virtual classroom.”
With the ABC for Students program, Governor Kay Ivey has committed $100 million in Coronavirus Aid Relief and CARES Act funding to provide free internet access to eligible K-12 students at home this fall. The state will use those funds to purchase internet service for students in low-income households so they can fully participate in distance learning.
Who is eligible?
Households with students who are currently enrolled in the National School Lunch Program through their local school and meet that program’s income requirements will receive an ABC for Students voucher in the mail. If you believe your student is eligible for the National School Lunch Program but is not yet enrolled, please contact their school directly.
When will I get my voucher?
Some members may have already received their vouchers. The ABC for Students program began mailing vouchers to eligible households in September. If you want to check on the status of your voucher, contact your school to confirm that your student is enrolled in the National School Lunch Program and that your home address on file is up to date.
What does the voucher cover?
Your voucher covers the cost of equipment, installation, and high-speed internet service through Dec. 30, 2020. Your family will not receive any bills and will not be charged any additional fees. The state will handle all paperwork.
What type of internet service can I get?
NAEC will be offering free service at 50 Mbps download and upload speeds to qualifying households with a valid voucher.
Once you receive your voucher, call one of NAEC’s member service representatives and let them know you have an “Alabama ABC voucher.” They will be able to help you sign up for internet service, schedule installation, and answer any other questions you may have.
Easy as ABC
The ABC for Students program will provide free internet access for eligible students enrolled in the National School Lunch Program. NAEC is working with the state of Alabama to make the process as easy as possible for households that want to participate.
If your student is already enrolled in the school lunch program, you are automatically enrolled in the ABC for Students program. Have your prepaid voucher ready and take the following steps:
- Step 1 — Call NAEC when you have received your voucher in the mail.
- Step 2 – Let a member service representative know you have an “Alabama ABC voucher.”
- Step 3 —NAEC will provide equipment and installation support to you if available in your area.
- Step 4 —Help your student connect to distance learning through their school.
If your student is not enrolled in the school lunch program but you believe your household meets the income requirements:
- Step 1 — Contact your school to confirm your student’s eligibility.
- Step 2 — Enroll in the National School Lunch Program. Your household will automatically be added to the ABC for Students mailing list.
- Step 3 — Receive your ABC voucher in the mail and follow the steps listed above.
If you have not received your voucher and believe that you should have, please contact your student’s school to confirm their enrollment and that your address is up to date.