The Federal Communications Commission is offering $3.2 billion in temporary discounts to families that need help paying for broadband service.

“Today the Federal Communications Commission made history.  It adopted rules for the nation’s largest-ever program to help households nationwide afford broadband service,” said Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “This $3.2 billion program was designed to lower the cost of high-speed internet service for those struggling to get the connectivity they need during the ongoing pandemic.  It’s a challenge that is all too real for too many families.” 

The program — officially the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program — will provide eligible households with discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on tribal lands.  It also will provide a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households. 

The FCC said the program is open to households that:

— participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider;

— Lifeline subscribers, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits;

— households with kids receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast;

Pell grant recipients; and

— those who have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the last year.  

People who are not currently in Lifeline must apply for the broadband discount through the National Lifeline Verifier.

Temporary program

The program is temporary and has only enough funding for a limited amount of time. It is meant to last no longer than six months after the COVID emergency. Households that get Emergency Broadband Benefit Program services will be notified before the program ends and will be able to cancel service without a fee before receiving any increases in their bill, according to the Benton Institute, which issued FAQs about the program.

“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection,” Rosenworcel said. “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. 

“In short, this program can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across the country.  That’s why our work is already underway to get this program up and running, and I expect it to be open to eligible households within the next 60 days as providers sign up and program systems are put in place,” she said. 

The FCC will issue updates about the program. Sign up for them at: https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.