By CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Communications Commission greenlit a program to provide low-income households monthly $50 subsidies for broadband internet in a move to help bridge the digital divide nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic forced many schools, businesses and more to go virtual.
The FCC unanimously voted on Thursday to establish the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, that aims to provide qualifying households with discounts on their internet bills. It will also provide some households an opportunity to receive a computer or tablet at a discount.
Acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that the FCC has “made history” by creating the rules “for the nation’s largest-ever program to help households nationwide afford broadband service.”
“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,” she added in a statement. “In short, this program can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across the country.”
The program provides discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service — and up to $75 a month if the household is on tribal land. In addition, it will establish a one-time discount of up to $100 for computers or tablets for eligible households.
Eligible households include those with children who receive free and reduced price school lunches or breakfasts, Pell Grant recipients, and those who have lost their jobs or had their income reduced over the past year, according to the FCC. In addition, the program is open to households that participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider as well as current subscribers to the FCC’s Lifeline support for affordable communications program.
The FCC said it intends to open the program up to those who need it within 60 days. More information on how to apply should be made available on the FCC’s website in the coming weeks.
“I have confidence in our staff that we will do this carefully, swiftly and the right way,” Rosenworcel stated.
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