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Struggling to pay for internet? Here’s how to apply for a federal discount

From work from home to pandemic-induced distance learning, the coronavirus has shown Americans just how important the internet is for every household

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Students and instructors at the STEM Santa Fe engineering camp gather on a video call as seen through the laptop of instructor Esther Lescht in her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In this June 16, 2020, file photo, students and instructors at the STEM Santa Fe engineering camp gather on a video call as seen through the laptop of instructor Esther Lescht in her home in Santa Fe, N.M.

Cedar Attanasio, Associated Press

The pandemic has shown us just how important household internet access is to our daily lives — from work from home video meetings to distance learning for school-aged children.

But internet can be expensive, especially for those on a tight budget. So to aid families struggling to bring Wi-Fi into their homes, the government has launched a program to help people pay their internet bills.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit, run by the Federal Communications Commission, will provide $50 a month to qualifying households, including those financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The EBB details

The $3.2 billion program was passed into federal law by the Consolidation Appropriations Act in late December and was launched May 12, according to the FCC.

Here’s what the FCC says in included in the Emergency Broadband Benefit:

  • EBB provides $50 a month discount, per household, for broadband service.
  • Households on tribal lands can qualify for a $75 discount.
  • Up to $100 discount for the purchase of new computer — a laptop, desktop or tablet — under qualifying conditions.

“Million of Americans are offline and millions more are struggling to afford broadband service,” said acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel ahead of EBB’s launch, as seen in a video uploaded to YouTube. “Thanks to the Emergency Broadband Benefit, help is on the way.”

Who qualifies for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program?

According to the FCC, households that apply for the internet discount must meet one of five of the following criteria:

  • The household already participates in a government assistance program — like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid — or is at or below federal poverty guidelines.
  • A child in the home was on the federal free or reduced-price lunch program during the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school years.
  • A student in the home “received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year.”
  • Since Feb. 29, 2020, the household suffered a job loss or furlough and made less than $99,000 — or $198,000 for joint filing couples — in 2020.
  • The household qualifies for an internet provider’s already existing coronavirus relief or low-income program.

Households have to apply. Here’s how

American families that may qualify for discounted internet can apply at the FCC’s third-party website administered by the not-for-profit Universal Service Administrative Company: Emergency Broadband Benefit application website

Households can search for a local broadband provider participating in the EBB program directly on the FCC’s Companies Near Me website.

And Americans that do not already have internet service can call the FCC for more information about how to apply by mail at the Emergency Broadband Support Center, or by calling 833-511-0311.