This New Program Can Help Families Afford Home Internet

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The cost of home internet service can be too high for many families. This federal program will provide discounts to eligible households on a temporary basis.

Home internet is no longer a luxury. Instead, it's becoming a necessity to adapt to the fast-paced, technology-driven world. As the ongoing pandemic makes financial matters worse for many households, some may be forced to cancel their home internet because it's too much of a drain on their bank accounts.

The good news is the Federal Communications Commission is starting a new program that will tackle this issue. Keep reading to learn more about how the Emergency Broadband Benefit program can help families afford home internet

The Emergency Broadband Benefit begins May 12

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program begins on May 12, 2021. The program hopes to make it easier for individuals and families to access reliable internet, regardless of the expense. Having internet access and having a reliable electronic device to access it can provide families with more opportunities.

Eligible households will get a discount on their home internet bill. They will also be eligible for a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. To receive this one-time discount, households must contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price of the device.

Here's how the program works

The funds cannot be received directly by the participant. Instead, eligible households will receive a monthly discount on the cost of home internet service from an approved provider.

Here's how much of a discount is available:

  • Most qualifying households will receive a $50 discount per month
  • Households on qualifying trial lands will receive a discount of up to $75 per month
  • Additionally, a one-time discount of up to $100 will be available to all households to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. Households must contribute more than $10 but less than $50 towards the device to use this benefit.

There are many participating providers offering both landline and wireless broadband internet service. Some areas may have multiple providers available. You can check with the FCC to see participating providers. Participating providers vary by state, but include:

  • AT&T
  • Cox
  • Verizon
  • Comcast (Xfinity)
  • Windstream
  • T-Mobile USA

Who is eligible for the program?

Eligibility is limited, but there are several ways to qualify for the Emergency Broadband Benefit. You're eligible if you meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Have a household income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Participate in programs like Medicaid, SNAP, or Lifeline
  • Approved to receive benefits under a free and reduced-price lunch or school program, including the USA Community Eligibility Provision
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income due to furlough or job loss since Feb. 29, 2020, and the household's total 2020 income was at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers
  • Meet the eligibility criteria for the participating internet provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program

Qualifying income levels for the 48-contiguous states and the District of Columbia:

Persons in Household Poverty Guideline
1 $17,388
2 $23,517
3 $29,646
4 $35,775
5 $41,904
6 $48,033
7 $54,162
8 $60,291

For households with more than eight people, add $6,129 for each additional person.

For residents in Alaska and Hawaii, there are different qualifying income levels in place. Take a look at the charts for each state and multiply each income amount by 135% to check eligibility for this program.

How long will the program last?

This is a temporary program with a total of $3.2 billion in funding available. It will end when the program funds are exhausted or six months after the Department of Health and Human Service declares an end to the COVID-19 emergency.

Here's how to sign up

If you're eligible and want to apply for the program, you can enroll through the mail or online beginning May 12, 2021.

More application information can be found at GetEmergencyBroadband.org.

If you don't yet have internet access, you can browse participating providers to choose a provider. If you already have internet access, you can reach out to your provider to let them know that you've completed an application and to learn more about how soon they can begin providing you with a discount, once approved.

The pandemic has been difficult for many individuals and families. The good news is there are resources available that can make it easier to get the assistance that you need.

If you're struggling financially due to the ongoing pandemic, take a look at our coronavirus resources. We also have a personal finance portal with tips and tricks to help your money go further.

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