The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that enrollment for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB) begins on May 12th. The EBB program will provide eligible households with discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands. Eligible households also can receive a onetime discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers if the consumer contributes $10 to $50 toward the purchase price.
The FCC estimates that 14 million Americans — and 22 percent of those 65 and older — don't have access to a high-speed internet connection. Other estimates say as many as 42 million in the U.S. are on the wrong side of the “digital divide.” The EBB program, part of the third stimulus bill, is meant to help all Americans get online.
If you’re on the wrong side of the digital divide — or know someone who is — the EBB program can help you reduce the cost of getting connected. Starting May 12, you can register for assistance at getemergencybroadband.org.
AARP has long worked for low-cost internet solutions for older Americans, who need high-speed broadband for teleworking, medical and health-related information and news, online health-care consultations with doctors and nurses, and interacting with loved ones and friends, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Emergency Broadband Benefit will help older adults get and stay connected to the internet during the pandemic, and it can provide a road map for more long-lasting policies,” says Dawit Kahsai, AARP senior legislative representative.
"This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection,” acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “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 who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent, buying medicine or groceries."
The program will end when the money is spent or six months after the Department of Health and Human Services declares the end of federal emergency surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Internet providers will have to notify participants about the last date of the discount or partial discount, when the federal money runs out, to help with a potential transition to another program.
Who is eligible?
• People who use the federal Lifeline discount program. Lifeline offers up to a $9.25 discount off monthly phone or internet bills to households that make less than 135 percent of the federal poverty guideline or have at least one family member in some public assistance program such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For a family of four to qualify based on 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, annual income would need to come in below $35,775. The Tribal Link Up program provides additional discounts for those who live on Native American lands.
• People who already use a discounted internet service from a high-speed internet provider that is aimed at low-income households. AT&T, for example, offers internet access for $10 or less a month for households in which at least one person participates in the government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Cox offers internet service for $9.95 a month for new customers with at least one K-12 student in the household who qualifies for public assistance.
• Households whose children get free or low-cost school meals also will be eligible for the monthly discount of up to $50, as will people who have lost their jobs or had their income reduced in the past year.
• Households living on tribal Native American lands will be eligible for a higher internet discount of up to $75 a month, generally because high-speed internet in these areas is more expensive. The program also will offer a onetime discount of up to $100 for the purchase of a computer or tablet for those who are eligible, as long as consumers contribute $10 to $50 toward the purchase price. Those who get the benefits from the Lifeline Tribal Link Up discount program will be eligible to get EBB benefits as well.
• College students who receive student aid in the form of federal Pell grants.
- Check providers in your area
• Federal Communications Commission• Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP through its AgingConnected service • EveryoneOn, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit
- Need help figuring it out the EBB program?
Universal Service Administrative Co., which operates the Lifeline fund created from a tax on phone service, has a toll-free information number for the EBB program, 833-511-0311
- Ready to learn internet basics?
Senior Planet from AARP has free classes for anyone who wants to learn the basics after getting online.
- Seeking additional help?
• AARP Foundation offers programs and services to help older adults secure jobs, benefits, refunds and social connections.
.• Connect2Affect from AARP Foundation can help you combat social isolation.
This story is provided by AARP West Virginia. Visit the AARP West Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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