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Caroll is one of more than 500 Free Press Action members who shared their stories with us in response to our petition urging Congress to get and keep people connected to internet and phone services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Millions of people in the United States are on the wrong side of the digital divide — at a moment when connection is more crucial than ever before. Twenty-two percent of households don’t have home internet, and low-income Black and Hispanic households are even less likely to have home internet than their low-income white counterparts.

Congress has the power to fix all of this: It should invest the billions of dollars needed to close the digital divide once and for all.

Read a sampling of our members’ powerful stories below: 

“And now public schoolchildren are supposed to use broadband for their schoolwork and instruction? States like mine don’t even have it available in parts of the state.” —Carl, New Boston, New Hampshire

“As a disabled senior citizen, I’m on a limited budget. I’m on Social Security and can’t afford high internet costs and utility costs.” —Liesl, Sacramento, California

“I’m a single working mom. We did not have internet for years in our household. At this time I have no choice but to get it so that my son’s schooling can continue.” —Jessica, Spokane, Washington

“As a grad student and single mom to two college students, it’s imperative that we have internet access. For our educational needs, a month of internet costs as much as gas in my car for the month.” —Diana, Olympia, Washington

“I live on Social Security as my only income. Internet costs me 10% of my entire income. I can’t afford a phone so the internet is my only connection to the outside world.” —Helena, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

“As an educator, I believe it is imperative that all students have access to the internet not only so we can continue to teach them reading, writing, math, science, art and music but also so we can stay connected as humans. Students need to see and talk with their teachers and classmates now more than ever.” —Jennifer, Houston, Texas

“As a chronically disabled senior with high monthly medical expenses, I cannot afford long-distance calls or a cellphone. I have six relatives in New York and two aging sisters [who are] unwell in D.C. I would be very grateful to be able to call them.” —Shang-Mei, Berkeley, California

“Without internet, I cannot order groceries, supplies, access my bank during this crisis, or maintain social interaction. I am over 65, have heart and lung conditions, and am at high risk if I go out in public during the COVID-19 pandemic. My grandchildren and nieces require internet access to continue their education in this crisis. Internet access is a needed utility, not a luxury, and should be subsidized as such.” —Debbie, Beverly Hills, Florida

“Our daughter’s classmates can’t do remote learning because they don’t have internet access in the heart of Silicon Valley.” —David, Portola Valley, California

“Even middle-income folks are impacted by high prices. The cheapest internet access I can get is $69 per month for a supposedly 1 gigabit connection. There is no cheaper plan.” —Steve, Palm Springs, California

“I am a 54-year-old homebound disabled person due to a texting driver. Everything I do has to be done online from home, from ordering my service dog’s food to ordering my own food to using food stamps online to pay for my food, since I have no way to physically get to a store. Internet on Social Security Disability Insurance as my sole income is completely unattainable!” —Edward, San Bernardino, California

“I don’t own a smartphone so my only means of communication is via the internet. It shouldn’t cost that much for a service that is so critical to daily living. Internet service should be regulated like telephone service.” —John, Colchester, Vermont

“I have always been fortunate enough to be able to pay for internet access. Many people in my community can’t afford it and rely on the public library for access. The libraries are currently closed to protect people from COVID-19 infection, so they have no internet access.” —Richard, Minneapolis, Minnesota   

“Millions of children are missing school because they do not have an internet connection.” —Lynn, New York, New York

“I am a substitute teacher who lost work and have been unable to file for unemployment because of my home state’s antiquated system. The fact that I am out of work will make it hard to pay the high phone and internet service bill I have with AT&T. Additionally, many of the children in my school district do not have internet and Wi-Fi at home because their parents cannot afford it. This puts them at a disadvantage for learning.” —Linda, St. Louis, Missouri

“With public libraries closed, many U.S. citizens have lost their access to the internet. Many schoolchildren in low-income communities do not have access to the internet or computers at home. Clearly the racial and socioeconomic divide during this COVID-19 crisis is apparent.” —JP, Novato, California

“I have good broadband access, though I pay $200/month for it, so it’s a stretch on a retiree’s budget. Many many people can’t afford that cost for broadband … which is critical for people who would like to improve their financial and life situation. … What we have now is the very wealthy, the lower-middle class drifting daily into poverty and imminent bankruptcy, the already poor who have already drifted there, and the hopeless impoverished. … Land of the free? Without current communication access, you aren’t free.” —Jackson, Kansasville, Wisconsin           

“I live in a rural area with two choices for internet. Both are expensive for terrible service so I depend on my mobile phone provider with unlimited data, which is actually limited and when you exceed the limit it slows down so much I basically have zero internet. During a crisis like we are experiencing with COVID-19 it is imperative to stay connected. Most of the world has much better internet than we do here in the U.S., it’s time to change that!” —Judy, Rising Fawn, Georgia

“I pay exorbitant rates for a very tiny amount of bandwidth with a drastic monthly cap. My ‘bonus hours’ are after 2 a.m. Tell me, are you up working at 2 a.m.?” —Elaine, Lucerne Valley, California       

“We were doing OK with internet when dial-up worked. About three or four years ago, we had to quit trying that. Mom is 91 and has not much earned income and very little Social Security, we managed a deal that only costs twice as much as dial-up. It isn’t terribly fast, but we [could] make it work for most of our business needs — until this virus thing has us working from home. Now I can really see what a faster internet would do. Right now, my jobs as a performing artist are nil, and no help in sight.” —Clarice, Nashville, Tennessee

“I lost my job 5 weeks ago. My internet costs over $100.” —Leighton, Brooklyn, New York               

“I am fortunately still working from home but the cost of my internet is out of control. The service is still of the exact same quality as when I signed up five years ago with Spectrum but the price jumps about $20–30 PER YEAR. So to try and attempt to pay for that now, in order to continue working from home and be able to barely pay my rent, I have to allot my scraps of cash to pay for a utility that is not only unreliable and inconsistent, but jumps wildly in price.” —Natalie, New York, New York

“Over the last 20 years, the cost of our internet has gone up over 800%. This is just insane, especially now that I’m retired and living on a fixed income.” —Michelle, Ashland, Oregon       

“My daughter-in-law is a teacher, my son is a minister and my grandson is a college student. They live in a small, rural community. All of them and their neighbors need fast, affordable, reliable internet — especially right now. Last month they were able to make do by using their phones as hotspots. Unfortunately they used up the fastest service on two of their phones less than halfway through the month and were downgraded to much slower speeds while still needing to complete time-sensitive, critical tasks. Their entire community is seeking solutions for faster service, but so far the cost has been prohibitive. I’m also aware of some teachers and students in Wichita who are taking their devices and sitting outside of closed school and public buildings in order to gain access to the internet connection they need.” —Jane, Wichita, Kansas

“I’m a senior who is virtually homebound and on a fixed income. Without ‘somewhat cheap’ telephone and internet I would become a total shut-in and lose contact with my family.” —Derek, Lynnwood, Washington

“Internet access has been a prominent presence in keeping me alive as I had to deal with a traumatic injury and resulting disability. Information, camaraderie, coping methods, medical research and treatment options. It has been vital ... and also too expensive. ... Broadband is not just for the rich. It can be a vehicle to lift people up and keep people grounded at times of hardship. It should not be just income for providers.” —Greg, Barre, Vermont                             

“I don’t know how I’d cope without the internet. Store hours have changed and I can verify when I can go shopping or if there are special hours for the elderly. I stream videos to help me exercise because the gyms are closed. The list of things I do that depends on internet access is endless.” —Barbara, Chicago, Illinois

“I work in technology and it sickens me to know that people are currently stuck at home with no internet connection to the outside world.” —Ben, Aurora, Colorado

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