(AP) – Americans can apply for $ 50 off their monthly internet bill starting Wednesday as part of a government emergency program to keep people connected during the pandemic.
The $ 3.2 billion program is part of the $ 900 billion package to fight pandemics in December. The government is increasing spending on broadband as the pandemic made it clear that at a time when jobs, schools, and healthcare were online, they could not access and afford broadband.
It is unclear how long the money will last, but it is expected to take several months. Tens of millions of people are eligible, though the Federal Communications Commission, which administers the program, has not given a number.
For example, if you receive grocery stamps, have a child on the free or discounted school feeding program, use Medicaid, or suffer loss of income during the pandemic and earn $ 99,000 for single registrants or $ 198,000 for joint registrants, or less, your household is eligible.
There are other eligibility requirements as well – see https://getemergencybroadband.org to find out if you qualify.
You can also get the discount if you owe money to your phone or cable company. This is important because some people were excluded from low-cost Internet service provider plans when they owed money to their service provider. More than 800 wireless and home Internet companies participate, including AT&T, Charter, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
People living in tribal areas are eligible for up to $ 75 off their bill. There is also a $ 100 refund for desktops, laptops, or tablets. If so, you’ll have to pay between $ 10 and $ 50 of the cost of the device yourself and purchase it through your broadband provider.
The discount can apply to a household’s entire bill, or you can use it to trade up to a more expensive deal and have some of your bill covered.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is a more robust, if temporary, program that helps people afford the Internet than Lifeline, the FCC’s other affordability program, which takes only $ 9.25 a month off phone or Internet bills. A household can use both the Lifeline and EBB programs.
The Biden government has proposed $ 100 billion to keep Americans connected, and even before that, billions of dollars will improve Internet access.
The FCC on Tuesday approved a $ 7.2 billion program for schools and libraries to connect students in their homes. The finance department is also setting up a $ 10 billion fund to improve internet connectivity. The money for both came from the $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief package in March.
In addition, hundreds of billions of billions of dollars in general funds have been sent to states that could be spent on broadband access.