WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved an emergency grant to low-income households for high-speed Internet, an effort to bridge the digital gap that has left much Americans cannot be contacted online during the pandemic.
The four-member committee agreed to provide broadband service of up to $ 50 a month for low-income households and $ 75 a month to homes on Native American soil. The FCC will also offer a one-time discount of up to $ 100 for a computer or tablet for eligible homes.
The program will use the $ 3.2 billion allocated by Congress late last year as part of the Covid-19 bailout bill to bring internet services to American families for distance learning, work and Digital health care.
Jessica Rosenworcel, acting president of the FCC, said the program would be available within 60 days. The agency still needs to register available internet service providers and set up a program to approve and track recipients. According to the FCC report, at least 14.5 million Americans don’t have broadband. Over the past year, the digital divide has become more pressing.
“This is a program that will help people at risk of losing their digital connectivity,” said Rosenworcel. “It will help people in the car in the parking lot get only Wi-Fi signals for online work. It will help those who linger outside the library with a laptop just to get the wireless signal for distance learning.
Eligible recipients include families with children on free or reduced lunch, Pell recipients, and individuals who lose their jobs or see their income decline in the past year.
The digital gap is one of the most persistent problems facing telecom policymakers. More than $ 8 billion in federal funds is allocated each year for this matter. Much of that is allocated to internet service providers to bring services to rural and underserved areas.
There are many challenges. For example, broadband maps are well known beyond the number of households with access. If an internet service provider such as Charter or AT&T reaches only one house in the census block, the entire block will be connected on the federal map, even if all homes are not available. Broadband option level.
Rosenworcel announced the establishment of a task force to study the agency’s broadband access data tracking.