Students and families can now apply for funding for digital tools under the Emergency Broadband Benefit bill. Those eligible can receive $50 dollars per month toward internet bills, or $75 dollars if on tribal land, and up to $100 toward one computer device. You can check eligibility and how to apply at getemergencybroadband.org.
This subsidy program is one of the major benefits of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that has been fueling announcements like the $300 million going toward broadband and digital equity in Maryland, to be overseen by the state’s new Office of Statewide Broadband.
And as senior leaders of the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation write in an op-ed for Technical.ly in March, it could help close the digital divide for as many as 155,000 Baltimore City households.
“It’s more apparent than ever that broadband is no longer nice-to-have. It’s need-to-have. For everyone, everywhere,” said Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in the press release.
Those eligible for the program include Pell Grant recipients; those receiving benefits from programs such as SNAP, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income; people who have experienced a “substantial” loss of income during the pandemic; and anyone who has an income 135% below the federal poverty level, or about $30,000 a year for a household of three. A whole household is eligible if one member is eligible for any of these benefits.
The subsidy applies to participating internet service providers (ISP) such as Comcast in Baltimore. You can check ISP eligibility using the “companies near me” feature. Not that the site just launched today, so there are technical difficulties where no ISPs are populating; the page to apply for benefits online also seems to be down. The feature will be consistently updated, though.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.