Families across the nation are scrambling to apply for a new FCC program to provide certain households with more affordable internet service. The new program is intended to help offset the cost of broadband internet coverage for millions of families operating from home for work, school, and healthcare.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is the FCC’s new program for household internet subsidies. Qualified households can receive a discount on monthly internet service through local providers and a discount towards the purchase of a device like a computer or a tablet.
What is the Emergency Broadband Benefit?
Congress voted late in 2020 to approve the bill that provides for the Emergency Broadband Benefit. In February 2021, the FCC finalized the guidelines.
The acting chairwoman of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, released a statement explaining how the COVID-19 pandemic moved the entire world online. She said, “As a result, the digital divide became a growing chasm. Suddenly, Internet access was not just nice-to-have, it was a must-have for work, healthcare, school, and beyond.”
Qualifying individuals and households who apply will receive a $50 monthly credit towards broadband service from a participating local provider. The monthly benefit increases to $75 for those living on Tribal lands.
In addition to the monthly discount on internet service, qualifying families can also use a $100 discount towards the purchase of a computer or tablet. This portion requires a co-pay of more than $10 but less than $50 on the total cost of the device.
Who qualifies for an internet credit?
Qualifications for the internet subsidies are found on the FCC website. A member of a household needs to meet just one of the following criteria to be eligible for the internet discount:
- Income must be at or below 135 percent of federal poverty guidelines or participating in certain assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline
- Approved for free or reduced school lunch/breakfast
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
- Significant income reduction since February 29, 2020, and total household income of $99,000 or less in 2020 ($198,000 for joint filers)
- You meet the criteria for the provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program
How to apply for the monthly internet subsidy
You must apply in order to receive assistance with internet expenses and device purchases. You can either contact your local broadband provider of choice to inquire about whether they offer the program, check online at GetEmergencyBroadband.org, or call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application.
How long the Emergency Broadband Benefit will last
The program for discounted internet service and discounted devices won't last indefinitely. The internet subsidies will end either when the $3.2 billion allotted by the federal government has run out, or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services has declared the pandemic to be over (whichever occurs first).
Rosenworcel noted that families can continue seeing a positive impact from buying a discounted computer, even after the monthly service discount ends.