The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously approved the final rules for an emergency program on Thursday that will allow people to receive a monthly discount to help pay for internet bills.
The agency voted to establish the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which allocates $3.2 billion to help Americans pay for internet access amid the coronavirus pandemic. The program comes as the pandemic has shined a bright light on the country’s digital divide and lack of affordable broadband options.
Specifically, the benefit will give eligible households a $50 monthly discount for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if they are on Tribal lands. It also allows for a one-time discount of up to $100 for people to purchase a computer or tablet.
The benefit is specifically for low-income homes in the U.S. or those who have lost income because of the pandemic. The program will be available for people who are already in a low-income or pandemic relief program offered by their broadband provider; who participate in the agency’s Lifeline program; are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits; have kids of receive free or reduced price lunch or school breakfasts; have received a Pell grant; or those who have lost their jobs or seen their income reduced because of the pandemic.
“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. It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries,” Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.
Rosenworcel added that she expected the benefit would be available to eligible households within the next 60 days.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit comes after Congress allocated the money late last year as part of a coronavirus relief bill.