Photo by Sora Shimazaki

An estimated 67,000 Charlotte households lack high-speed internet service, according to city figures, which draw from U.S. Census data. About 12,000 of those households fall within the city’s lower-income “Corridors of Opportunity.”

On Monday, City Council approved an arrangement with Queens University that aims to address that disparity.

Under the arrangement, Queens would contract with the city to promote enrollment in the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program.

Operated by the Federal Communications Commission, the program provides discounts so that qualifying households across the United States “can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.”

With a $14.2 billion budget, the program offers:

  • A discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service. ($75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.)
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a computer or tablet from participating providers.

A household is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program if household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, or if a member of the household meets other criteria outlined by the federal government.

The city’s three-year contract with Queens also would require the university to gather data relating to the digital needs of Charlotte residents, as well as develop “sustainable funding plans around digital inclusion.”

The city anticipates that Queens would enroll at least 10,000 households in the federal program, according to City Council documents.

The city’s contract with Queens is estimated to cost about $290,000 a year and will be paid for with federal Covid-relief funds. 

The university has indicated to the city that it will work with Hue House, a Black-led creative agency, to provide marketing services under the contract, according to the city. The agency would be paid $475,000.

Founder and publisher of Qcitymetro, Glenn has worked at newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.

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