by Maggie White
With high-speed, fiber-optic internet soon to transform the peninsula’s virtual landscape-installation set to be completed by the end of 2022-Brooksville resident Doug Cowan is leading a digital equity efforts. Cowan’s goal is to help people understand what’s available in terms of discounted monthly internet fees (based on household income), free computer literacy courses (in person or online) and eligibility. for free or reduced cost tools (new or repaired).
A retired radiologist and self-described community volunteer, Cowan says the future availability of internet access has “huge implications across the peninsula until the digital equity divide is resolved …. There are a ton something that will support everyone in the community — whether you are now computer savvy or not. ”
Reduced monthly internet fee
The first thing Cowan hopes people will take advantage of is the Affordable Connectivity Program, an effort by the Federal Communications Commission to reduce the monthly cost of internet and telephone services for low -income households.
For those who qualify, the enrollment process is twofold and includes the initial filling of the application through the federal government. The second step involves contacting Consolidated Communications (the internet provider) to apply the discount.
Cowan said the benefit could mean the monthly cost for the first year could be less than $ 5 per household. For anyone who needs help applying, Cowan and Brook Minner of the Brooksville Free Public Library are available (see sidebar for program and contact information).
There are many free computer literacy courses
The second thing on Cowan’s virtual plate is, “How do we teach people how to use the internet?” For this, Cowan cites free courses available through the non-profit National Digital Equity Center.
NDEC offers more than 40 courses on how to use a computer, tablet, iPhone and other devices, as well as how to navigate different programs and platforms safely and effectively. Based in Wiscasset, NDEC was founded in 2017 by Susan Corbett “with a mission to close the digital equity divide here in Maine.”
Corbett, formerly CEO broadband provider Axiom, explained in a recent phone interview: “Digital equity is the time when we can all participate in our online society — through remote school, remote work, remote access. health care, and so on. important. ” Courses by NDEC available online and in person.
Online courses by NDEC
NDECOnline courses fall into three categories:
“Aging Well” (for those aged 55+ and includes courses on creating a safe online presence, identifying fake news, using health care apps, video conferencing with family/ friends and download books, movies and other entertainment).
“For Home and Education” (including use of Google platforms, and information on virtual classrooms, internet safety and video streaming).
“For Work and Business” (including use of Microsoft programs, Quickbooks, website building and social media management).
Cowan said, “One of the fun things is that most of the teachers are part-time, people with other jobs. I took courses from a guy who was a farmer in Aroostook County…. “Once someone takes one of these classes, they get caught. If you think you can’t learn about the internet, we’ll prove you wrong. Heaven is the limit.”
Corbett emphasizes the hospitable nature of the courses: “The goal is to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed. [people]; you will meet them where they are. Our instructors do an amazing job of making people comfortable. Almost always when there is a first class with us, they automatically sign up for three or four more classes. ”
In-person courses through NDEC
Regarding personal classes, “We have partnered with local organizations — such as adult education facilities and local libraries — anywhere that can host a gathering of people. And then the host organization provides a facilitator and they have classes at that location, ”Corbett said.
Courses are constantly being added and, once registered on NDEC, Maine residents will be able to sign up and take unlimited free classes on topics such as “Learn About Devices,” “iPhone Basics,” “More than Gmail” and “Internet Safety” (to name a few). Brooksville Library has recently joined the network and courses will be added as facilitators become available.
Free tools by NDEC
The third feature is the possibility of a free or discounted device for low -income households through the Maine Affordable Devices Program.
“Ang NDEC there is grant money for equipment, ”Cowan said. If you qualify, “the only requirement is to take courses at NDEC and you will receive a certificate stating that you own the computer. ” (See sidebar for more information.)
“We now have a cheaper internet resource and people should have the opportunity to increase their ability to take advantage of it,” Cowan said.
Internet cheat sheet
When can you register to get fiber internet in your home? Visit fidiumfiber.com/fiber-locations.
Information on discount payments on the internet? Visit fcc.gov/ACP to see if you qualify. If so, go to ACPBenefit.org to fill out an online application or print a hard copy to send by regular mail.
NDEC Courses? Visit digitalequitycenter.org and click “Take a Class” to see what’s available and “Enroll” to fill out the application.
Information on the Maine Affordable Devices Program? Visit digitalequitycenter.org/request-device/ to complete the form, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 207.259.5010
Help getting started with all things internet? Contact Doug Cowan at 207.837.1285 or email@example.com or Brook Minner at The Brooksville Library at 207.326.4560.