To help low-income households afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set up a program that allows qualifying households to get internet service for as little as $50 a month, as well as an opportunity to buy a computer or tablet at a discount.
The $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will be made available within 60 days (by April 27, 2021) as providers sign up and program systems are put in place. FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel called the move historic.
“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,” she said.
“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. I have confidence in our staff that we will do this carefully, swiftly and the right way.”
Eligibility and what’s available
To get the broadband service discount for up to $50 -- and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands -- applicants will have to prove that they fit at least one of the following criteria:
Existing participation in a 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 children receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast;
Pell grant recipients; and/or
Those who have lost jobs or seen their income substantially reduced in the last year.
Additional details on household eligibility can be found in this document on page 20. As for the discount on a computer or tablet, the program will provide a one-time discount of up to $100 on either of those devices for eligible households.