The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved guidelines Thursday for a new internet subsidy program that would provide low-income families with funds for their internet bills during the pandemic.
Under the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, low-income families who qualify can receive a $50 monthly credit toward their internet bills through their internet provider.
Families that live on Tribal lands will be able to receive $75 per month and eligible families will also be given a one-time $100 discount on a tablet or computer, according to the FCC.
Congress approved $3.2 billion for the federal initiative in a relief bill passed last year.
“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection,” FCC acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said in a statement. “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.”
Lawmakers pushed for the subsidies to help low-income families pay for their internet bills after many families and students were forced to start working or learning remotely from home during the pandemic.
Eligible families include those who are currently on Medicaid, have received a Pell grant, use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or have lost employment due to the pandemic, the agency said.
Prior to the implementation of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, low-income households were provided $9.25 a month in federal subsidy for broadband through the FCC’s Lifeline program.