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Campaign aims to improve internet access for some in Detroit

June 12, 2021 GMT

DETROIT (AP) — A new campaign to help close Detroit’s digital divide will provide a monthly $50 internet access credit and one-time $100 subsidy for a laptop, desktop computer or tablet to eligible city residents.

The EBB 313 program streamlines access to the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a federal program that subsidizes the cost of internet and technological devices for eligible households, which include those at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or that participate in certain assistance programs.

However, the application process requires internet at nearly every step, creating a barrier for those most in need of support, according to Darienne Hudson, president and chief executive of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

Detroit’s area code is 313. The campaign was announced this week.

EBB 313 is operated by Connect 313, a collaborative organization founded by the city, Rocket Mortgage Classic, Rocket Companies, Microsoft and United Way of Southeastern Michigan.

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Rocket Companies subsidiary Rock Connections will operate a central call center to help residents understand their options under the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. They also will learn how to determine their eligibility and how to apply either online through the federal EBB portal or with the support of a local nonprofit.

Rock Connections will also help residents identify the best internet service provider for their situation and direct callers to partners that will work to secure a device or internet access.

“Internet and technology are critical to everyday life, whether you are talking about education, employment, health care or even building connections and staying in touch with loved ones,” said Jay Farner, chief executive of Rocket Mortgage and Rocket Companies.

Farner also is chair of the Connect 313 Fund.