With so many people working and attending school from home during the pandemic, it's become crucial that as many Americans as possible have access to high-speed internet. That's why the FCC on Thursday gave the green light to a $3.2 billion initiative that will offer eligible families "at risk of digital disconnnection" discounts on their internet service bills, as well as on tablets and computers, reports the New York Times. The Emergency Broadband Benefit program will offer a $50 a month subsidy to low-income families to put toward broadband service, or $75 a month for families living on tribal lands. The program also offers a one-time discount of up to $100 per household for a laptop or desktop computer, or for a tablet. The aim is to help families near the poverty line or below it, per the Washington Post.
"Today the Federal Communications Commission made history," Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel says in a release, noting the funds will help ensure people don't have to sit in a parking lot to pick up WiFi, or skimp on groceries to pay the internet bill. Insider notes one issue that's emerged during the pandemic is the "homework gap," as kids whose homes don't have reliable internet can't keep up with school while learning remotely. The program, to be paid for by money included for this purpose in last year's COVID relief bill from Congress, should be up and running in two months' time, after internet service providers sign on and systems are set up. Among those who qualify are those who've lost jobs or income over the past year; Pell Grant recipients; and families with kids who are enrolled in free or reduced-price meal programs at school. (Read more FCC stories.)