Millions of low-income Americans are entitled to an emergency discount on high-speed Internet services and devices to get online on Wednesday. This is intended to help families who struggled during the pandemic as school, work, and health care went online.
The Federal Communications Commission’s grant program, the Emergency Broadband Benefit, can be used for those on SNAP or Medicaid, Pell grant recipients, and families with children with free and discounted lunch plans for $ 50 monthly discounts. Low-income households in tribal areas can apply for $ 75 monthly broadband grants. The program also provides a one-time grant of $ 100 for a laptop or tablet.
The FCC said 825 broadband providers agreed to offer the discounts.
The program, which Congress approved $ 3.2 billion late last year, is one of several efforts to bring broadband Internet to all American homes. The FCC also approved a $ 7.2 billion program earlier this week to provide high-speed internet access for students through schools and libraries. President Biden has promised to make broadband affordable and available to all and proposed $ 100 billion to connect every rural and low-income home to high-speed Internet service.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program comes late in the pandemic, and schools and workplaces are reopening. The delay was largely due to disputes over details of subsidies in Congress and the FCC during the Trump administration. And it’s unclear what will happen when the one-time emergency fund runs out.
The program ends either when the $ 3.2 billion fund is depleted or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares the end of the pandemic.
“High-speed Internet services are critical for families to take advantage of today’s health, education and job opportunities,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chairwoman of the FCC, in a statement. “And the discount on laptops and desktops will continue to have a positive impact after this temporary discount program is completed.”