We know about 30% of South Bend households lack Internet access in their homes. Many of these households also lack computers, data plans, and other essential tools to help households cope with the new realities of social distancing. While we will work towards a future where all households will have at-home internet access with good speeds, right now we need to recognize we are not close to that reality. On this page you will find resources to centralize information about important solutions to the disconnected in the interim.
Love Your Block: Digital Communication Grant
Free WiFi Accessibility
In partnership with enFocus, the City of South Bend’s Department of Innovation & Technology gathered and centralized cross-institutional information of no-cost public wireless network access across the South Bend region. Users are encouraged to abide by social distancing guidelines when accessing networks. Instructions and recommendations for parking and accessing networks are included with each location on the map. Join us in spreading this information by hosting this map on your website or sharing it with your friends and family by going to bit.ly/SouthBendWiFi* or copy and paste this link into your browser: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1_Qy-AjI_v6C_ZIabIalRCbzFHG2tH57N&usp=sharing.
The map presents a crowdsourced tool to help people locate free WiFi networks. If you have or know of a no-cost public wireless network around the South Bend region, help contribute to our map’s development by filling out this form: bit.ly/SouthBendWiFiMapForm.*
*Links are most effective in the Google Chrome browser. If you receive an error, try opening a new browser window or using a recommended browser. If you are logged into a Google account in the same browser window, try logging out and opening the link again.
Internet and Data Providers
Internet and mobile data providers are offering help to customers in response to recent and anticipated emergency measures associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. All providers comply with the FCC agreement stating that providers will waive late fees, not cutoff service for lack of payment, and open hotspots for the general public.
Our friends at Digital Charlotte have created an open-source doc to track the updating COVID-19 Coronavirus response offerings made by Internet Service Providers across the nation. Keep track of new offers and share this info with anyone that could use this: http://bit.ly/digcltisp.
Broadband Now has developed a complete guide to internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find this guide and related resources here: https://broadbandnow.com/guides/coronavirus-internet-service-guide.
Internet Service Providers
Comcast COVID-19 response offers free WiFi for 2 months to low income families, plus all Xfinity hotspots are free to the public during this time. Sign up by calling 1-855-846-8376 or at internetessentials.com. Find Xfinity hotspots here!
Sprint COVID-19 response provides unlimited data to existing customers and will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
T-Mobile COVID-19 response offers unlimited data to existing customers and will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
Devices & Technology
Companies and organizations are acting locally and nationally to bridge the digital divide by providing low-cost opportunities to connect to the internet through computers, tablets, and smart phones. Below is information on discounted devices and device support in the South Bend region and nationally.
PCs for People provides the opportunity for all low-income individuals and nonprofits to benefit from the life changing impact of computers and mobile internet through electronic reuse. Desktops start as low as $75, laptops as low as $100, and internet and data options available. Click here to learn more.
- New customers can receive 20% off using the code “NEWCUSTOMER”. Place your order online and enter the code at checkout!
- Click here to read more about eligibility requirements:
- Must be below the 200% poverty level
- Must be currently enrolled in an income-based government assistance program
Internet Essentials from ComCast provides low-cost computers starting at $109 to eligible applicants. Actual computers are refurbished and manufacturers will vary, but all computers come with the hardware needed to use right out of the box so you can enjoy the benefits of having the internet at home.
- If you would like to purchase a computer, you can place your order online or by calling 1‑888‑234‑4272.
- Click here to read more about eligibility requirements:
- You are eligible for public assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Housing Assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI and others.
- You live in an area where Comcast Internet service is available.
- You are not an existing Xfinity Internet customer and have not subscribed to Comcast Internet within the last 90 days.
- You have no outstanding debt to Comcast that is less than one year old. Households with outstanding debt more than one year old may still be eligible.
Discount Smart Phones
Lifeline is a government benefit program that provides monthly telephone service discounts for eligible consumers living on low incomes, helping create access to the opportunities and security that phone service affords – including being able to connect to jobs, housing, family and 9-1-1. Lifeline is supported by the Universal Service Fund. Up-to-date information on Lifeline Wireless providers can be found at Free Government Cell Phones. You may qualify if you meet either of the criteria below:
- Your household income is at or below 135% of Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG).
- You participate in any of these programs:
- Aged, Blind & Disabled (ABD)
- Community Options Program Entry System (COPES)
- DSHS Chore Services
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
- Food Stamps (SNAP)
- Housing & Essential Needs (HEN)
- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Medicaid, Medical Assistance & Medicare cost-sharing programs
- National School Lunch Program (free lunch)
- Refugee Assistance
- State Family Assistance (SFA)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Regional and national organizations have come together to offer online programming to improve citizens’ digital literacy as well as offer opportunities of educational engagement. Our friends at Digital Charlotte have created an open-source resource for remote work and online learning digital tools and products. If you are looking for an online list for remote work or online learning, view this resource at http://bit.ly/digcltremote.
GCFLearnFree.org has helped millions around the world learn the essential skills they need to live and work in the 21st century. From Microsoft Office and email, to reading, math, and more, GCFLearnFree.org offers more than 200 topics, completely free. View compiled resources for remote work and online learning tools at edu.gcfglobal.org.
Northstar Digital Literacy is making their Northstar Online Learning (NSOL) unit on Basic Computer Skills available publicly for a period of time to serve those who may be unable to access services in public locations due to COVID-19 restrictions. View this resource and more at digitalliteracyassessment.org.
Human I-T offers a free online course to learn computer basics, how to use email, how to navigate the Internet, and more and is available now for individuals to participate in. The application process includes filling out a form on their website. Find more information on the course at human-i-t.org/request-digital-literacy or by calling 562-372-6925.
St. Joseph County Public Library provides free access to online courses with Gale and Lynda.com that teach technology, business, and creative skills. Explore the Library’s online learning resources at sjcpl.org/our-databases. Get one-on-one help from a librarian who can answer technology questions, help fill out government forms, or connect you to resources. Chat with us online at sjcpl.org, by email at email@example.com, or by phone at 574-282-4646.