WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - Tori Schneider was one of many Americans who was forced to work from home when the coronavirus pandemic first started over two years ago, however the Chase County resident had a problem, her home internet was just not good enough.

She tells KAKE News, "I would actually go into the office, although we weren't open, just because I didn't have adequate internet to even upload photographs to our website. And there was no way I could do zoom meetings from home."

Eventually Schneider was linked up to high speed internet through the Buhler based Ideatek with help from a federal program, the Affordable Connectivity Plan, which offers up to $30 a month to help people pay for high speed internet.

 Schneider says the program has a been a big help, especially because "when the pandemic hit, that's when everyone really became aware of how valuable quality internet access was."

On Monday, President Joe Biden announced an expansion of the ACP. The government now will work with 20 internet service providers nationwide, including Ideatek, to offer high speed plans for $30 a month to those who qualify for ACP. Combine that with subsidy program from before and many families could get free internet.

Jade Piros De Carvalho, Director of Community Relations for Ideatek, says they believe the expansion of ACP, "Is really going to provide a lot of digital equity and opportunities for families."

According to the White House, nearly 40% of Americans qualify for ACP.

Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple was at the announcement in Washington D.C, and says the programs expansion has more to do than just offering free internet.  "When it comes to the access to importance of high speed internet, it's the arguments we made for paved roads 50 years ago. This is access to employment, access to education. High school, all the way up through the PhD level now can be obtained online. This is access to online stores, being able to buy and access groceries, this has access to medical appointments."

To find out if you are eligible, you can visit here.

Qualifications for ACP include household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level or participates in one of the following programs:

  • Supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
  • Medicaid
  • Special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children (WIC)
  • Supplemental security income (SSI)
  • Federal public housing assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans pension and survivors benefit
  • Free and reduced-price school lunch program or school breakfast program, including at U.S. Department of agriculture (USDA) community eligibility provision schools
  • Federal Pell grant (received in the current award year)
  • Lifeline
  • Certain tribal assistance programs, including Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Head Start (only households meeting the income qualifying standard), Tribal Temporary Assistance for needy families (tribal tanf), and food distribution program on indian reservations.
    Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband provider’s existing low-income internet program.