Need help paying for your internet? You might qualify for Emergency Broadband Benefit

Written by Brian Hardzinski and Amy Ta

Under the “Emergency Broadband Benefit,” $3.2 billion have been allocated to subsidize the internet bills of Americans affected by the pandemic. Photo by Shutterstock.

If you’ve been working from home during the past year, or have a kid in Zoom school, then your internet connection is probably struggling to keep up. Maybe you had to upgrade and pay more for a stronger signal.

Now the federal government will help you pay for that. Under the “Emergency Broadband Benefit,” $3.2 billion have been allocated to subsidize the internet bills of Americans affected by the pandemic.

Eligible households can get up to $50 off per month for broadband service, plus a one-time discount on a computer or tablet.

Who can apply? Anyone who lost a job or some income, and is part of a family that makes less than $200,000 per year. The program also applies to people who receive food stamps and pell grants, and those on Medicaid. That’s all according to Geoffrey Fowler, a tech columnist with the Washington Post. 

“The catch is you have to apply for it, and there’s a little bit of paperwork you’ll need to do. And then you actually get the discount from your internet service provider,” Fowler says. 

But things can get complicated. “Some internet service providers are, surprise surprise, playing some shenanigans with their customers and making it hard for them to get the benefit.”

He says this right now, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have their eyes on ISPs, and this is a learning opportunity to see how ISPs behave. 

“The next level beyond this is a much bigger conversation about, gosh, if we think internet connections in the United States are so important, then maybe we should regulate them like we regulate electricity or water. … Maybe have some basic standards, some basic prices, some transparency.”

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