- The FCC has approved a $3.2 billion federal initiative to give people better internet.
- Eligible households can get broadband subsidies of up to $50 a month.
- Households that receive a Federal Pell Grant or get free school lunches are among those eligible.
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A $3.2 billion federal initiative to subsidize high-speed internet for low-income households during the pandemic has just been approved, and applications could open within two months.
The program will offer eligible households discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said.
The program will also provide a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households.
The program is the biggest one yet to help households nationwide afford broadband service, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Thursday, after it voted unanimously to formally adopt the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.
Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC’s acting chairwoman, said she expects the program to be open to eligible households within 60 days.
To be eligible, at least one member of the household must meet one of the following criteria:
- Qualify for the FCC’s Lifeline program, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits.
- Receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch or breakfast program.
- Have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the last year.
- Have received a Federal Pell Grant.
- Meet the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
“It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work,” Rosenworcel said. “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.”
During the pandemic, many jobs, schools, and healthcare services have moved online – widening the digital divide. This is especially problematic in rural areas, which are more likely to both have limited broadband access and be located further from amenities.
The pandemic has led to what’s been dubbed the “homework gap,” where students without reliable home internet have struggled to keep up with remote learning.
An FCC member since 2012, Rosenworcel has pushed for the commission to use its authority and resources to expand internet access. She was appointed the commission’s acting chairwoman in January.