The “digital divide”—that gap between individuals who do and do not have access to technology devices and high-speed internet—has become more noticeable in recent months. Because the coronavirus pandemic has made distance learning a norm we have learned how dependent we are on fast and reliable broadband internet connections, but for many American families with low incomes, this kind of internet service is unaffordable.
However, there is some good news. You may qualify to receive up to $50 a month off your monthly internet bill under a new federal program called the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP). Households can qualify for this program based on several criteria, comprising income level and eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the National School Lunch Program (or the Community Eligibility Provision of the NSLP), or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (There are several additional ways to qualify including the loss of a job or substantial income in the past year due to the pandemic.) To determine if you qualify and to apply for EBBP benefits navigate to getemergencybroadband.org/. Participating internet providers (dozens of internet companies in Nebraska and Iowa are participating in this program) can answer your eligibility questions and guide you through the application process, and fill you in on what plans are available at a discount.
Other key facts about EBBP:
- Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
- The $50 discount on your internet bill won't last forever. This is a temporary program which will end once it runs out of money ($3.2 billion has been allocated), or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever comes first. From then on you’ll need to either cancel your service or pay the regular rate to keep on using it.
- The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.