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City, Local Partners Start Providing Internet Connectivity for Qualifying Families Through CARES Act

This article was archived on 11/29/2020

Local families can now receive subsidized internet services as part of the Internet Access Plan funded by the City’s allocation of State CARES Act funding. This is a much-needed service for many who lack internet at home and those who have school-aged children who rely on virtual and remote learning.

This unique partnership between the City, Cox Communications, Tulsa Responds, and Impact Tulsa was first announced by Mayor G.T. Bynum on August 13 after the City was awarded the funding by the State of Oklahoma to help Tulsans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May, the City of Tulsa and Impact Tulsa convened the Tulsa Internet Access Task Force, a group of more than 40 leaders representing school districts, nonprofits, foundations, internet service providers, and business leaders. The Task Force has met weekly to analyze connectivity challenges in Tulsa and develop solutions. The launch of this initiative is one of the results of the effort. 

“Thanks to citywide collaboration, we are excited to move forward with this program and start providing better Internet access to families that will help children with their virtual education amid the pandemic,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “I am very grateful for Governor Kevin Stitt and the State of Oklahoma’s allocation of federal relief funds to the City of Tulsa, which is allowing us to bridge the digital divide in Tulsa during a challenging time.”

The goal is to provide internet access for up to 23,000 low-income families in Tulsa through a subsidy program called Connect2Compete. Families who qualify for this service will receive Cox High Speed Internet at no cost to them for up to 14 months.

Tulsa Respond’s team of navigators will assist families in the enrollment process. The bilingual team will help determine a family’s eligibility, facilitate the online application process and help navigate the installation process.

Residents eligible for the subsidized internet service include those with a Pre-K through 12th grade student, as well as CAP Tulsa and Educare learners in the household who are also eligible for the National Free School Lunch Program, Head Start, SNAP, WIC, LIHEAP, and/or TANF; who receive Tenant-Based Vouchers, or Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA); and/or who live in public housing. Tulsa Housing Authority residents who do not have a student in the household are also eligible.

Cox will provide a free router and the first two months of internet at no cost for families who sign up before December 31, followed by at least 12 months of internet service subsidized with the CARES funds. Following the 14 months of free internet, Cox will continue to provide the service for eligible families for $9.95 per month. 

“This unique initiative is the result of a collaborative effort that should serve as a model and will ensure that no Tulsa student lacks reliable high speed internet at home,” said Roger Ramseyer, vice president and Tulsa market leader for Cox Communications and chair of the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The Tulsa Chamber launched the year promoting the importance of enhancing connectivity of all kinds in Tulsa, and this initiative is a significant realization of that aspiration.”

In addition to internet for families with students, Cox will also provide internet for any teacher without internet for 12 months through Cox’s CARES Essential Internet service. This service will also be subsidized through the Internet Access Plan.

Families who successfully enroll in the program can expect to have service five to seven days following verification.

Tulsa Responds will be hosting a virtual informational session on November 5 at 6:30 p.m. To sign up or learn more information about the program and to see if you qualify, visit https://www.tulsaresponds.org/ or call (918) 900-0918.

For additional details on City programs funded by the CARES Act, visit: https://www.cityoftulsa.org/cares