The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted unanimously for a $3.2 billion program, approved as part of the $900 billion COVID Relief bill that provides emergency discounts of up to $50 per month toward broadband internet service for low-income households adversely affected by the pandemic. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB) also provides up to $75 per month for households on Native American land and a one-time discount of up to $100 on a tablet or computer for those who qualify. The program will be opened to eligible households by April 2021.
“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection. It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work. It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning. It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries. In short, this program can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across the country.”Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel
The EBB program is open to households that participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider; Lifeline subscribers, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits; households with kids receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast; Pell grant recipients; and those who have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the last year. More than 33 million may be able to obtain the monthly aid, according to Free Press, a public-interest advocacy group, which said the number probably will be higher. Those eligible include families whose income is no greater than 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and others who participate in programs such as reduced school lunches.
The discounts are limited to one per household and they will have to apply to receive the aid when the program is implemented in the coming months. The money will be paid directly to Internet providers that register with the U.S. government and obtain permission to participate. Companies are not required to accept the benefits under the program