Like many older adults and retirees, Wilma Chan found it difficult to connect to the internet. She had limited experience using digital technology and felt intimidated by the process of getting online … How do I know which internet service is right for me? What will I need to install in my home? Will I receive an expensive bill I don’t know about? When Wilma discovered CTN’s digital literacy lessons through her local library, she was eager to apply to the Home Connect program and build her skills. Yet to fully dive into the digital world, Wilma needed a stable internet connection at home.
During her initial intake call with CTN, we discovered that Wilma might make a good candidate for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) since she receives medical benefits. To get started, CTN shipped her a configured tablet with a temporary internet hotspot. Then instructor Jannette Estrada guided Wilma through the entire application process and its many unexpected challenges.
“Navigating an online application that has drop-downs, boxes to fill in, and options to select from may be challenging for seniors to successfully fully complete on their own,” says Jannette. “It’s also important to explain to seniors the value of keeping passwords and logins organized and available for the rest of the process. Most people who are new to technology are under the impression that a password may only be used once. Before we began our process, I explained to Wilma that logins and passwords are just as important as the keychain that she carries to open her doors. Because of this, Wilma began documenting all her logins and passwords. This was very helpful during the next steps of the process.”
After Jannette helped Wilma submit her ACP application, she was approved to receive a $30 monthly discount for internet services. Next, Jannette helped Wilma apply for AT&T’s Access program — a service that helps low-income communities receive internet services for only $10 a month. When Jannette and Wilma tried to complete the application online, they ran into another challenge: the portal kept popping up with an error message. If Wilma had encountered this message on her own, she claims that it would have been impossible to continue. “These big companies will put you off, so having Jannette was so helpful,” Wilma reflects. “I mean, I couldn’t think of the questions she would ask! I have no idea what these internet companies are talking about.”
To try to resolve the error, Jannette conducted a three-way call with AT&T and Wilma. A representative told them that because Wilma’s housemate had internet service through Comcast, they could not connect the same address to AT&T’s service. In the past, however, this has never been a problem. Jannette had even checked Wilma’s address through the AT&T Access qualification tool and confirmed that the address qualified. Discouraged yet determined, Jannette made a second call with AT&T to advocate for Wilma’s eligibility. This time, a representative found that Wilma did qualify for the Access program. Two days later, a technician came by Wilma’s house to set up the proper equipment. At long last, Wilma was able to receive in-home internet service at no cost!
Like Wilma, many older adults need some extra assistance getting online, navigating application portals, and troubleshooting problems. In the end, the challenges were well worth it. Wilma is now using the internet to connect with friends and family and utilize virtual banking. She also wants to learn how to virtually meet with her doctor, update her driver’s license, and access convenient online services!
Although benefits like the ACP are meant to help people, securing them can be a challenge — especially for those without prior internet access or basic digital skills. CTN is motivated to help more people access low-cost internet access and benefit from programs like the ACP. We’re also happy to share our insights and tips along the way. If you need help getting your community online, check out our partner opportunities.