Link Health representative informs youth about Affordable Connectivity Program. credit: Link Health

Internet Access is Vital for Houston’s Well Being

Last July, Link Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bridging the digital divide in healthcare, launched an initiative in Houston to connect patients to the Affordable Connectivity Program. This government-funded program provides a subsidy of up to $30 per month for lower-income households ($75 per month for households on tribal lands) on participating internet service plans and a one-time $100 subsidy for a connected device. The initiative aims to enhance accessibility and connectivity in healthcare services for underserved communities.

As a college student at Rice University, I wanted to get involved because it was an opportunity to pioneer a new initiative in Houston led vastly by the youth, and I was inspired! 

Since our inception, we have made significant strides in advancing digital inclusivity through the Affordable Connectivity Program. With a track record of success, we are proud to have assisted over 2,000 individuals in accessing the $30 monthly benefit provided by the program. This achievement not only reflects our commitment to reducing the digital divide in healthcare but also highlights the tangible impact we’ve had on the lives of those in need. 

However, this program has been on hold since the end of April when federal funds expired, leaving millions of Americans potentially unable to afford high-speed internet service. On October 25, 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration requested $6 billion from Congress to extend funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program. Without swift congressional action, households unable to afford high-speed internet and not yet enrolled will remain on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Almost 2.8 million households and 7 million people in Texas do not have access to broadband. Simply being able to access the internet opens up access to telehealth, allows families to obtain electronic medical records, and even helps students complete their homework assignments. 

As a volunteer, I was placed at a Legacy Community Health clinic once a week, where I learned that not many people are familiar with Link Health or the Affordable Connectivity Program. What good was the policy if people were not benefiting from it? Being part of this initiative allowed me to offer a simple solution to bridge the digital gap for those in need.

While enrolling people in the ACP in Houston, I heard stories about the great lengths some individuals go to to simply access broadband. One person I worked with was a small business owner from Third Ward whose enterprise relied heavily on online platforms. He found himself grappling with the limitations of an unreliable internet connection. Frustrated by dropped connections and slow speeds, he knew that accessing the ACP could be the key to not only sustaining but expanding his business. Navigating the enrollment process became a shared journey as he and I worked together to overcome the hurdles. The day he received confirmation of his enrollment was a celebration of newfound possibilities for his business and community engagement. 

Houston’s dynamic landscape is full of stories like this business owner, each one illustrating the vital role that reliable internet access plays in people’s lives. The ACP serves as a catalyst for change, addressing the unique challenges faced by Houstonians and fostering a more digitally inclusive community. As a college student, witnessing the positive impact first hand has been both gratifying and inspiring. Together, we are not just connecting individuals to the internet; we are putting money back into their pockets, contributing to a more equitable and connected Houston.

Link Health is unable to grow and provide internet access to those in need because Congress has not taken action. We urgently call on Congress to pass legislation to extend this vital program. The potential for growth and further impact is substantial. By expanding our outreach efforts and forging community partnerships, we envision reaching even more individuals and households. Our aim is to extend the benefits of the Affordable Connectivity Program to a broader demographic, ensuring that more people can access essential healthcare resources.

Through ongoing collaboration with stakeholders, advocacy for digital inclusion, and strategic initiatives, we are optimistic about the program’s future growth. As technology continues to play a crucial role in healthcare and other aspects of peoples’ lives, we remain dedicated to creating an environment where everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status, can leverage the power of connectivity for improved well-being.

Share via
Copy link