FCC accepting applications for Emergency Broadband Benefit program to help people afford internet

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Leslie Durham, chair of Broadband for Everyone in Louisiana, supports greater high-speed internet access. (Photo courtesy of Durham)

BATON ROUGE–The Federal Communications Commission began taking applications Wednesday for the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a program to help American families and individuals struggling to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program will provide a discount of up to $50 per month for qualifying households and $75 per month for qualifying households on Tribal lands. The discount will go towards broadband service.

Qualifying households also may receive an additional $100 discount to purchase a desktop computer, laptop or tablet from a provider that agrees to pay at least $10 and less than $50 of the cost.

“We can flip a switch right now and everybody can have all the internet they need, but that does not mean everyone can get it because they cannot afford it,” said Leslie Durham, chair of Broadband for Everyone in Louisiana.

In Louisiana’s Legislature, House Bill 465, to auction off parts of the allocated 4.9 GHz in Louisiana, is awaiting final passage in the Senate. If passed, the bill would allow a winning bidder a three-year trial period with the high-speed spectrum.

The spectrum, along with the discount from the FCC, will provide faster internet service to people in Louisiana’s rural communities.

“Broadband is vital to the successful heath of our rural communities,” said Durham. “What we are doing if we cut ourselves short with broadband is deciding what community dies and what community lives. “

A household can qualify for the FCC’s discount if it meets at least one of the following criteria:

– Has an income that is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or Lifeline;

– Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;

– Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;

– Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or

– Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 programs.

Access to internet service will give households access to telehealth, jobs services and virtual learning.

To apply, eligible households can do one of the following:

– Contact their preferred participating broadband provider directly;

– Go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers near them.

– Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application, and return it along with copies of documents showing proof of eligibility to:

Emergency Broadband Support Center

P.O. Box 7081

London, KY 40742.

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