FCC Finalizes Low-Income Internet Subsidy Program

On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the rollout of new rules that are designed to create a federally funded discount on broadband for qualifying households. The report and order, if adopted, will form the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a $3.2 billion initiative to provide low-income households with discounted internet service and the opportunity to receive a discount on a computer or tablet.

The FCC’s press release noted that the program was created by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. It explained that through the program, which underwent a public notice and comment period last month, eligible households may receive a discount of up to $50 per month, or on Tribal lands up to $75 per month, on broadband service. 

“As we work our way through a pandemic that has upended so much in our day-to-day life, we have been asked to migrate so many of the things we do online. From work to healthcare to education, this crisis has made it clear that without an internet connection too many households are locked out of modern life. It’s more apparent than ever that broadband is no longer nice-to have. It’s need-to-have,” Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “With the help of the Emergency Broadband Benefit, we have a new way for households to access virtual learning, for patients to connect to telehealth providers, and for those struggling in this pandemic to learn new online skills and seek their next job.”

The announcement stated that to qualify, a household member must be eligible for the FCC’s Lifeline program, receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch or breakfast program, have experienced a substantial loss of income since Feb. 29, 2020, have received a federal Pell Grant, or meet the eligibility criteria for a participating providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program.