FCC approves $50/mo. high-speed internet subsidy for low-income households

Ari Howard

Mar 24, 2021 — 2 min read

After a year in the pandemic, the federal government will begin providing eligible low-income households discounts on their internet bill.

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Some American families may soon see a bit of relief from the cost of internet service. A new government program aims to help qualifying households get online by providing monthly financial credits for broadband service, as well as a computer discount. 

On Feb. 25, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed to implement an emergency broadband benefit program that will help subsidize the cost of internet service for qualified low-income households. The program will cost $3.2 billion and will be available to sign up for in 60 days (by the end of April). 

The benefit program will provide qualifying households with a $50/mo. credit on their internet bill for the remainder of the pandemic. This credit increases to $75/mo. for those who live in tribal areas. All eligible households will also receive up to a $100 discount on a computer or tablet. 

Households can qualify for the broadband benefit program in a range of ways, including:

  • You currently participate in a low-income or pandemic relief program offered by an ISP 
  • You are a Lifeline subscriber 
  • You are on Medicaid
  • You accept SNAP benefits 
  • The kids in your household receive free or reduced-price lunch and/or school breakfast 
  • You are a Pell grant recipient 
  • You lost your job and have seen your income reduced in the last year 

The FCC’s Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel commented on the significance of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program,

“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection. It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work. It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning. It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries.”

According to the FCC, this is the nation’s “largest-ever program” to help connect low-income households to affordable internet. 

Today the Federal Communications Commission made history. It adopted rules for the nation’s largest-ever program to help households nationwide afford broadband service.

Paloma Perez

For households who currently lack adequate internet service, this broadband subsidy program likely feels way overdue. As millions of Americans have had to work and learn remotely for nearly a year now due to the pandemic, reliable home internet service has become more essential than ever. However, as many as 42 million Americans lack internet service and the majority of those Americans lack access because they cannot afford the cost of internet service. 

The gap between those who have access to the internet and, therefore, can fully participate in society, and those who lack access is known as the digital divide. This broadband subsidy program is an attempt to bridge the affordability aspect of the digital divide for the remainder of the pandemic. Time will tell if the discount is sufficient or if the qualifications are wide-reaching enough for the program to truly make a difference. 

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Ari Howard

Written by:

Ari Howard

Associate Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content

Ari is an Associate Writer for the Allconnect team, focusing on broadband and wireless news, as well as broadband and TV provider deals. She recently graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband & Wireless Content

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