U.S. to Help Needy Families Pay for High-Speed Internet -- Update
By Ryan Tracy
WASHINGTON -- The federal government is launching a temporary
$3.2 billion program to help needy American families pay for
high-speed internet service, in what could also be a boon for
The Emergency Broadband Benefit program opens for enrollment
Wednesday and generally offers $50 a month to help eligible
households pay their internet or mobile phone bills.
More than 825 providers have signed up to offer service through
the program, from giants such as Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc. to
smaller players such as Dish Network Corp.'s Boost Mobile,
according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Jeff Moore, principal at industry research firm Wave7 Research,
said he expects carriers to capitalize on the program by seeking
new customers and pushing upgrades to existing ones.
"There will be a surge of orders and a surge of business for the
carriers, so that's a short-term positive for them," he said. "It's
a $50 benefit per month, and who's not going to like that?"
The funding comes from a Covid-19 pandemic relief law that
Congress passed late last year. Assuming a wide swath of eligible
households sign up, the $3.2 billion will likely run out in about
six months, according to John Horrigan, a senior fellow at the
Technology Policy Institute think tank who has studied broadband
Biden administration officials said Wednesday that they expect
more funding will be needed to keep families connected after the
pandemic, particularly for families with students who lack
high-speed internet access.
"There's more that needs to happen," said Chris Rush, senior
adviser for innovation and educational technology at the Education
Department. "This initial program will be additional input and
information to make the case."
Democrats in Congress including House Majority Whip James
Clyburn (D., S.C.) have proposed adding $6 billion to the program,
part of a $94 billion plan to expand broadband service to U.S.
households that either can't access it or can't afford it.
President Biden, for his part, has proposed $100 billion in new
funding for broadband infrastructure, both to expand access and
reduce the cost of service. The White House didn't specify how
those funds would be spent.
Households are eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit if
they have lost a job or significant income in the past year. They
can also be eligible if one household member participates in
another aid program such as Medicaid, reduced-price school meals,
student Pell grants, Lifeline subsidies for telecom service, and
low-income or emergency pandemic programs from private broadband
The $50-a-month subsidy rises to $75 a month for those living on
tribal lands. It also includes a one-time discount of up to $100
for the purchase of a computer or tablet. To sign up, households
can contact a provider, visit https://getemergencybroadband.org or
call (833) 511-0311.
Separately, the FCC this week published the rules for another
$7.17 billion pot of funding that schools and libraries can tap to
help students and patrons get internet access. The funding, which
comes from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, can go toward
internet service as well the purchase of laptops, tablets and Wi-Fi
Write to Ryan Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 12, 2021 12:42 ET (16:42 GMT)
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