The Baker-Polito Administration announced three new programs to boost internet connectivity statewide, including a subsidy program to assist job seekers in the MassHire system that are facing a technology barrier.
In addition, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) at the MassTech Collaborative will expand a WiFi hotspot program statewide, delivering free high-speed access points to Gateway Cities, helping expand internet accessibility in areas hard-hit economically by the COVID-19 pandemic. The programs are part of the $774 million economic recovery plan announced by the Administration in October, which designated $9.2 million for an expansion of internet access programs. Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, administration officials, and private partners made the announcement during an event held in Springfield.
The new subsidy program, called “Mass. Internet Connect,” is being launched this month by the MBI in partnership with the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD), working with 29 MassHire one-stop career centers on the rollout of the program. The MBI is collaborating with internet service providers across the state, including Comcast, Charter, and Verizon, to offer subsidies and devices to job seekers. The internet subsidies and technology support will help keep job seekers connected to critical online resources and job search tools.
“The internet is critical to those seeking a new job, and these new programs recognize and aim to help solve connectivity challenges for people looking for work,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “These investments will help to get and keep people connected, so they can continue to engage with prospective employers, access the trainings and services offered by MassHire and their partners, and ultimately get back into the workforce.“
MassHire will work with job seekers within their system to identify technology barriers and determine the best solution or combination of solutions, including:
•Online resources for digital literacy;
•An internet subsidy for those residing in a municipality with Charter or Comcast access;
•A personal cellular hotspot from Verizon, for those in areas not served by Charter or Comcast; or
•A referral to a partner vendor, HiQ, which is distributing Chromebooks to persons that do not have access to a device at home to conduct a job search.
“For those job seekers interested in getting assistance with their technology barriers, the first step is to get into the MassHire system,” said Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta. “Being in that system allows us to provide the personalized services and unemployment support that each job seeker needs. These new programs will allow us to bridge the unique technology gaps that individual job seekers face, whether an affordability or access issue.”
The program will run through June 30, with the state covering the cost of subsidies for internet service and devices on behalf of the job seekers. Job seekers must be in the MassHire system to take advantage of the Mass. Internet Connect program. MassHire resources are available at https://www.mass.gov/topics/masshire. The MBI has participated in trainings for the 29 MassHire one-stop career centers located across the state, preparing them to identify and support those clients facing technology barriers.
The Commonwealth’s programs will supplement the existing programs launched by providers in response to COVID-19 earlier this year.
“For Massachusetts residents who are looking for a job, having Internet access is not a luxury, it’s essential to their search,” said Michael Caralis, Director, Verizon Public Sector. “Verizon is committed to helping bridge the digital divide. Working with the commonwealth and MassHire to obtain hotspots and unlimited data for job seekers without Internet access is one way Verizon can help with economic recovery efforts.”
Another new program being launched to address the economic impact of COVID-19 is an expansion of free community WiFi hotspots across the state, targeting Gateway Cities and outer Cape Cod towns that will not be served through private provider initiatives. The new sites will offer communities the opportunity to establish both outdoor and socially-distanced indoor access to high-speed internet, helping boost free internet connection points for residents. These new public hotspots will supplement the efforts of private providers, targeting municipalities where additional free options are needed.