Many citizens eligible for federal anti-poverty programs such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid have already been subsidized by the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit for their home or mobile access.
Internet access has become crucial in attaining success at school or at work, especially for those with poor living conditions.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, classes and jobs have become remote and internet access has been the key to keep the current situation working.
The federal government launched the EBB or Emergency Broadband Benefit program in May. This program grants a monthly broadband access subsidy for people who are also eligible for anti-poverty programs or those who became unemployed due to the pandemic.
Shelly Brisbin from The Standard says monthly assistance of $50 will be provided by the program for the recipients to pay for internet access.
“It’s $3.2 billion in total that funds those $50 broadband subsidies for people who already qualify for federal programs like Medicaid, SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program], Pell Grants and SSI [Supplemental Security Income],” Brisbin said.
“And even those who lost jobs or were furloughed during COVID, and households where there is a child or a dependent who qualifies for free or reduced [school] lunch.”
The monthly aid is sent to the broadband service provider supplying internet services to the qualified participants.
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) website shows the full list of providers, including national and regional companies such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Big Bend Telephone, and Panhandle Telephone Cooperative.
Qualified participants residing in tribal lands will receive $75 from the program. Some providers also grant discounts for tablet or computer device purchases.
Recommended Read: Federal Government Begins Civil Rights Investigation In Georgia Prisons
According to the FCC, 5.5 million people have applied for the program as of Sept. 12. 6% of the total number of participants are from Texas, the highest number so far. Approximately 10% of the available funds have been claimed.
FCC officials say they’re tapping National Urban League, AARP, and Boys & Girls Clubs, and other wide range partner organizations to spread more information. Latino households have shown a lower participation rate than the general population according to a recent study.
“There is an ongoing outreach to make sure that people are aware of this program, and it’s going to have to be a big one if they’re going to achieve the results that they want,” Brisbin said.
Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC acting Chairwoman, says that many misconceived the notion that lack of internet access is primarily a concern in rural areas only.
“Our image is someone in rural America,” she told Texas Standard. “But that’s not right. We’ve got lots of people in urban America who can’t get online right now, who don’t know about it, feel insecure about a monthly commitment or a new monthly bill.
But those are the kids who are sitting in the fast-food parking lot trying to do their homework at night.”
The infrastructure bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives includes a permanent budget for internet access subsidies.
However, it is unsure if it gets approved with the ongoing discussions. This temporary program continues as long as there will still be funds.