County distributes 10,000 free computers


Danny Martella

County residents ages seven and above who own a Montgomery County Public Library card number are eligible to receive a computer.

Isabel Skinner, News Writer

Through the FCC-funded digital equity and inclusion program called “Montgomery Connects,” Montgomery County is distributing 10,000 free Chromebook laptop computers to eligible low-income residents through February, March and April.

Run by the County’s Department of Technology and Enterprise Business Solutions (TEBS), its objective is to close the digital gap in the county by providing access to a home computer, low-cost high-speed broadband and digital training skills. 

To receive a computer, one must be a county resident and at least age seven, possess a Montgomery County Public Library card number and attend a scheduled in-person appointment with a photo ID at scheduled distribution events. The tentative schedule for computer distribution events start Thursday, Feb. 16 and end Saturday, April 29. Upcoming distribution appointments are located on the Montgomery County website.

Eligible residents who do not own computers, as well as county-serving nonprofit organizations, are encouraged to apply. The county provides programs such as Senior Planet Montgomery, which offers online and in-person classes for adults 60 and older on how to learn online skills and build digital literacy confidence.  

Free and low-cost internet is also available to eligible residents in the county. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a federal and state program that provides a discount of up to $45 per month for home broadband or mobile device plans for low-income households. Montgomery County has over 1,000 families enrolled in ACP.

Some RM students think positively of the initiative.“I am happy that they get the resources they need, that they have access to digital education,” freshman Vennela Merugu said. 

Others, however, have suggestions for how the county should distribute computers. “I think 10,000 is an excessive amount and they should use a smaller number to start off with just to see how well it goes,” freshman Riya Gowda said.

As of March 3, “Montgomery Connects” has distributed about 43,610 computers, has 3,740 computers left and has 2,704 computers ordered.

 “[Some challenges may be] giving the computers back, computers being broken or internet access,” Merugu said. Montgomery County owns these computers for three years until the federal grant expires, and during this period, computers cannot be resold.

Other frequently asked questions or concerns can be found on the Montgomery County website.