New Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

Hello Integrating Technology colleagues,

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has announced a new temporary emergency benefit for income-eligible participants that will provide up to a $50 a month ($75 in Tribal lands) reduction for broadband Internet services. Households can also get a $100 discount on purchasing a laptop, desktop, or tablet computer. This could be especially helpful for adult foundational skills learners who are eligible; without adult education practitioners making sure they know about this temporary program, however,  they may not receive the benefit.

The program will probably not roll out until sometime before the end of April, and it may only last six months, or until the $3.2. billion runs out.  Here's a link to a Benton Institute for Broadband & Society update that will give you a good picture of what is involved. If you post questions here I will try to answer -- or get answers to them from the Benton Institute, or from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance staff.

David J. Rosen

Comments

Perhaps it may just be in my region, but people don't have Internet mostly because the connection is just not physically available at all. Many can see where the provider stops their line and no amount of begging or cajoling can get the provider to move those few telephones down the line to pick up 5 families. Subsidizing the cost to get everyone physically able to connect seems more prudent first, doesn't it?

In fact, I struggle to come up with a family that has access physical access to the Internet but is not connected at least on their phone. The reality here is that most that don't have Internet, simply don't have an Internet connection to hook up to. It is disappointing that we can not see a national movement to subsidize making the connections much like we did with electric, water, septic and other utilities. Then we could address subsidizing the service fees? 

I am thankful that the support is being generated to those that have connection and have not been able to afford it. Those in rural areas still can't participate. 

Hello Ed and others,

It's not just Maine. There are many rural and urban communities, and Tribal Lands, in the U.S. where there is no Internet access available. That's an important issue for advocacy, and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance has many people in many states working on that. I also read recently in a February 2021 Bangor Daily News article that, for some areas in Maine, Internet service is available by satellite for $90 a month instead of what is typically $75 a month for Cable. 

David J. Rosen

Ed, Melissa and others who are concerned about lack of access to broadband in your state, county, city/town or neighborhood,

This week the Biden/Harris Administration introduced the American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, including $200 billion for education. The plan calls for $100 billion to “Revitalize America’s Digital Infrastructure” which proposes to ensure access for 100% of Americans to high-speed internet. The summary also outlines the intent to make affordable broadband available for areas where the digital infrastructure is already in place, highlighting the massive access disparities brought to light during COVID. Of course, this needs to be part of a Congressional budget reconciliation process, or to be introduced into Congress as a bill, and then it needs to pass. Nevertheless, this is a great start.

In other good news, the American Jobs Plan specifically references the need for strengthening "adult literacy" in WIOA Title II.

David J. Rosen

 

 

Hello Integrating Technology Colleagues,

Help your students get ready for up to a $50 a month ($75 for those on Tribal Lands) short-term reduction on Internet Service. The program will probably begin in April. It may only be for a few months, until the $3.2 billion runs out, but it could be extended or made permanent by Congress. It also offers a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer, or electronic tablet also available through the Internet Service Provider..

Who's eligible?

Households with at least one member who qualifies for the FCC's existing communications support program, Lifeline, will be eligible for the emergency benefit. Lifeline serves low-income Americans, including those on Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Households whose children receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or school breakfast program during the current or prior school year will also be eligible, as will federal Pell Grant recipients.

Households that suffered a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, will be eligible if their total household income for last year fell below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers. The FCC will also provide the benefit to households that meet eligibility criteria for another low-income or Covid-19 discount program from a participating provider.(Bolding mine) https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/06/tech/emergency-broadband-benefit-eligibility/index.html

There are many other criteria such as food stamps or children's school lunch subsidy eligibility, and others that could establish eligibility for this benefit. See my previous post in this thread with a list of them in an article from the Benton Foundation.

Worried that when the benefit runs out those who are enrolled will automatically have to pay full freight? The new regulations require Internet Service Providers to set up an "opt-in" after the benefit ends or the person's Internet service will automatically be discontinued.

There is no money in the legislation to promote this benefit, so for your students and others in your community who may be eligible for it to learn about it you and your colleagues will need to let them know.

Have questions? Post them here and I'll try to find answers, probably by enlisting the help of colleagues at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA). You can get information from NDIA directly. It's free to join and get on their email list. Lots of useful information.

David J. Rosen

 

The American Rescue Plan: Broadband and the Social Safety Net act, signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021, has great news: "$6 billion in additional funds for the FCC's recently established Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which provides a $50 monthly discount on internet plans for low-income Americans anywhere in the country ($75 for consumers on Tribal lands). That triples the original investment which means it could reach more people or possibly be extended over more months, or both. Source: Benton Institute for Broadband and Society https://www.benton.org/blog/american-rescue-plan-broadband-and-social-safety-net

See previous posts in this strand for information on who is eligible and what the discounts are.

David J. Rosen

Hello Integrating Technology colleagues,

Sorry, the article I referred to began by describing a law that was passed yesterday, but then, at the end, described a bill that was introduced and must wend its way through Congress. "In addition to the American Rescue Plan, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) led the charge on the reintroduction of the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act. The $94 billion proposal would bring broadband service to areas where it doesn’t exist, improve speeds in places where connectivity is sluggish, and help families who are struggling to pay their monthly bills." It was in this section of the article that $1 billion for digital literacy was mentioned. https://www.benton.org/blog/american-rescue-plan-broadband-and-social-safety-net You may want to read the article -- perhaps more carefully than I did!

David J. Rosen