November 2021 – Emergency Broadband Benefit Report

Anthony Hake Uncategorized

Analysis of EBB Enrollment Numbers

In our last report, 11% of the people we helped were residents in Youngstown who did not have internet. That number has now risen to 30% as folks are realizing their need for access to the internet and how they can leverage $50 off a month to begin exploring the world with digital divide blinders removed. All these people starting a new internet plan for what could be the first time for them is a massive success in our eyes, as we’re bringing more people online and closer to the job listings, online classes, and other opportunities they were previously missing out on.

We’re so excited about this, because it’s achieving the goal we set out on when offering assistance with this Federal program. While definitely met with skepticism, people eventually realized that Oak Hill Collaborative has nothing to sell, no gimmick to give. We are genuinely interested in the digital skill growth of citizens of Youngstown and Mahoning County, and that growth begins with access.

We Need Your Help!

Despite these impressive numbers, a good majority of our clients reported hearing about this program via word of mouth. This means that while billboards and handouts are nice, people listen to people. Has been this way since the dawn of time! As a result, we are calling on you all to help improve awareness of this program. If you know someone who is:

  • Enrolled in SNAP, Medicaid, SSI, Federal Public Housing Assistance, Pell Grant, or has a dependent that receives free or reduced lunch
  • Currently falls under the 135% low-income threshold which can be found here

Then please refer them to us! We’re happy to help, whether it’s sending an email to help them get started on their own or placing an appointment with OHC by calling 330-406-02

Pictured: Our EBB Intake Specialist Assisting a Client

A Review of How ISPs are Handling EBB

Spectrum (Charter)

Pros:

  • From the beginning Spectrum handled EBB applications over the phone, submitting “tickets” to make changes to the client’s account. Worked well as a temporary solution.
  • Calling spectrum representatives is still helpful if the information is mismatched or inaccurate between the EBB enrollment form and the spectrum account
  • Today the online form is required unless there is an issue during enrollment. This makes the process able to be completed 100% by the client from the convenience of their computer and cafe Wi-Fi. Accessible at this website here

Cons:

  • If the client has not made an online account, account information needs gathered to create an online account to access the application.
  • If an account is already made, it is incredibly difficult to access should account information be lost or changed since the account was made (e.g new phone number/email)
  • Significantly difficult to become unenrolled if new clients change their minds. Must be done via phone line with account holder present, which can be an issue if the call wait time is longer than the allotted appointment time. The same is likely true for all other ISPs.

AT&T

Pros:

  • Generally understanding staff equipped to inform and assist if called from 8am-10pm ET on Weekdays (number at 866.986.0963) and Saturdays from 8am-5pm ET (same number)
  • EBB benefits stack with the (already very affordable) Access plan.

Cons:

  • No online web form to handle enrollment. Must call the helpline and wait for an available representative
  • Clients need to locate account information, which is a given. Might be an issue if they don’t keep records.
  • Still need to wait for confirmation from an AT&T representative. Confirmation is via phone or email, and the benefit takes effect in 1-2 billing cycles.

Armstrong

Pros:

  • Often one of the highest speed options available in low-income neighborhoods here in Mahoning County.
  • Has an online form to complete enrollment

Cons:

  • Webform requires an Armstrong “One-Wire” account to access.
    • Possible for many clients to have service through Armstrong and not have a One Wire account.
    • One Wire account requires an account number and PIN to create. The full account number isn’t accessible on the billing statement (the last four numbers are censored). PIN numbers can only be reset at Armstrong storefront locations.
  • Webform gives erroneous error messages that redirect to the Armstrong phone line – which may redirect back to the web form depending on the representative that picks it up.
  • Overall a long and unfulfilling experience that might take 2-3 appointments to complete enrollment.