Broadband

With schools closed and remote learning becoming the new normal amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Internet providers have stepped up to make sure area students have reliable access.

On Monday night, Keene Mayor George S. Hansel announced on Twitter that Spectrum and Consolidated Communications have agreed to offer two months of free Internet service to students within their market areas who don’t already have it. Spectrum has also made the promotion available to teachers.

“This is just another example of us working together as community partner organizations,” Hansel said. “We really do need everybody to row in same direction here; we’re all working toward same thing, which is to keep community safe.”

Students who don’t currently have Internet access and want to get connected via Consolidated can call 1-855-399-3084 and mention the offer code “two months free” or visit www.consolidated.com/offer/student for more information.

The offer includes free installation, two months of waived equipment fees, a no-cost wireless router and no data cap. It does not require customers to sign long-term contracts.

According to Shannon Sullivan, corporate communications manager for Consolidated, the company opened up the offer because it knows how important it is to stay connected during difficult situations like the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We know that everyone is reliant on the critical services that we provide at a time like this,” Sullivan said. “We want to be sure that those who are in need of Internet access have options that can work for them.”

Announced last week by parent company Charter Communications, Spectrum’s offer extends to households with students in grades K through 12 and college. Spectrum has also said it will waive installation or pre-payment fees.

Those interested in the offer can call 855-243-8892.

“Internet broadband services typically are costing people $30 to $50, or above, for basic services,” said state Sen. Jay Kahn, a Keene Democrat who has been working on Internet issues for several years. “To offer it for free may enable some people who have had to make tough choices to have access during this time.”

Kahn also said that while helping people afford Internet access is important, not all communities have the infrastructure that enables connection. In many localities surrounding Keene, and in some parts of the city itself, Kahn said, dial-up Internet is the only connection available. This service isn’t quick enough to work with modern programs and becomes even slower when multiple people use it at once.

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, state and federal officials have been looking at ways to expand broadband access to communities that don’t have the best connections. Consolidated has been working with a number of those communities, including Chesterfield and Dublin, to build out the needed infrastructure.

Hansel said he’s also asked the providers to look into connecting parts of the city with homes that aren’t already set up to connect to broadband but noted that’s a longer-term objective.

Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson