After LaJoy Johnson-Law found out that she qualified to receive discounted internet through her local broadband provider, life as she knew it changed for the better. Johnson-Law, a resident of southeast, Washington, D.C., where she lives with her 8-year-old daughter Abria, went for years without an internet connection in their home.
The single mother battled her fair share of tragedies and hardships over the years while trying to provide the best life possible for Abria. In her life before home internet, and during times when she would struggle to just pay her rent, Johnson-Law managed to connect to the internet when she visited her mother or a neighbor. She even used her mobile hotspot to complete education classes as she pursued her bachelor’s degree online. But when COVID-19 shut down schools and virtual learning became the only way Abria would be able to continue classroom instruction, Johnson-Law knew she needed to do whatever it took to ensure their home was connected to the internet.
A Groundbreaking Home-Internet Option
Abria’s school encouraged Johnson-Law to apply through her local internet service provider’s broadband adoption program, and while Johnson-Law had been aware of the program, she had no idea she was eligible to receive the benefits. She applied directly on her phone, and to her surprise, she qualified two days later through her family’s participation in the National School Lunch Program.
“There are so many qualifications that families can tap into. I want to be able to share that info so that all families can have [internet] for their children,” said Johnson-Law. A few days after she applied, Johnson-Law received a self-installation kit and got to work.
Broadband Adoption Programs Pave the Way for Success
Internet service providers have offered discounted services and benefits for eligible families for well over the past decade. In fact, Johnson-Law is one of 14 million Americans who have been connected to the internet through a broadband adoption program. Whether it is a low-income family, a veteran or senior citizen who receives federal or state aid, a participant of free and reduced lunch, or someone who meets any of the various qualifications, broadband adoption programs offer low rates for high-speed internet and affordable prices for equipment in order to get devices into as many homes as possible.
During the pandemic, many internet service providers also offered free internet services to those qualifying families with school-aged children in the home as they embarked on a year-long journey of virtual learning. Across the country, whether through local and state partnerships or through the national K-12 Bridge to Broadband initiative, internet service providers partnered with school districts to identify those students that lacked internet service in their homes, and set out to ensure that as many students as possible were ready to learn from home.
“When the internet was set up and working, it felt amazing. It felt like we were connected with the world. It was also a sense of relief because that had been another point of stress,” said Johnson-Law. Abria was not only able to keep on top of her classes and school work, she also continued to received specialized instruction online, speech therapy, and occupational therapy through a Individualized Education Program, which is designed for students with special needs. “It’s been amazing to see Abria literally read word by word,” said Johnson-Law of watching her daughter learn from her teachers through the online education programs her school designed.
During some of the more isolating times of the pandemic, Johnson-Law and Abria also used their home internet connection to put on a Facebook Live show every two weeks called, “Storytime with Abria.” This was a time that allowed them to digitally connect with other kids and parents through reading and discussing Abria’s favorite books on the show.
Connecting to Opportunities
And for Johnson-Law’s career goals, internet at home made all the difference. “I’ve bumped up community efforts. I even ran for the school board here in southeast [Washington, D.C.].” Johnson-Law conducted “lunch and learn” online sessions with her community while she was running for a seat on the school board and ramped up her passion for education advocacy through online efforts to connect with others. Johnson-Law also aspires to obtain her doctorate online, having successfully earned her associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees online over the past several years. “Now that everything is online, it has created many more opportunities, including for myself,” said Johnson-Law.
“We are living in a digital divide. It’s not a secret. We have to get devices and the internet into people’s hands. I want to help any way I can, and to share that the resources are here,” continued Johnson-Law. “Because when we all get access to home internet and technology devices, the opportunities are limitless.”