Golf tourney announces new program to close Detroit's digital gap

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Detroit — In what's designed to be another step across the digital divide, the charitable arm of the upcoming Rocket Mortgage Classic golf tournament announced a new campaign Monday to connect Detroiters with the internet.

"This is a once in a generation opportunity," said Darienne Hudson, CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan, to change the city's status as the least connected metropolis in the United States.

The initiative known as EBB 313 was scheduled to go live at 3 p.m. Monday, a few hours after a press conference at Detroit Golf Club, site of the third annual tournament June 28-July 4.

The name combines a federal program called the Emergency Broadband Benefit, or EBB, with Connect 313, a collective founded by the tournament, the city, Rocket Companies, Microsoft and United Way of Southeastern Michigan.

EBB is a federal program that offers a $50 monthly discount for internet access and a one-time $100 assist for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer. More than 250,000 Detroiters, representing 40% of households, are believed to qualify for the program.

As Hudson noted, however, the application process is almost entirely online, creating the same issues for some people that it is designed to eliminate.

"I think everybody understands the paradox," she said.

The campaign involves a central call center operated by Rock Connections that will help Detroiters navigate the route to the EBB, along with support from nonprofits to help complete applications.

The phone number is (313) 241-7618. Nonprofits signed on so far include multiple Brilliant Detroit locations, Mission City: City Covenant Church and Friends of Parkside.

Rocket Mortgage and Rocket Companies CEO Jay Farner said the tournament donated $2.4 million last year to narrowing Detroit's digital gap.

The extent of the problem became even more apparent in the early days of the pandemic, he said, given the need for access to information and medical help even as face-to-face contact became hazardous.

Twitter: @nealrubin_dn