The acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Monday announced a proposal to use $ 3.2 billion to significantly subsidize broadband service for millions of families, an effort to reduce the digital divide that has reduced during the epidemic. Income families are punished.
The chairman, Jessica Rosenversel, announced that under her proposal, families qualifying for high-speed Internet service would receive $ 50 per month. This exemption will be $ 75 for families on tribal lands. Ms. Rosenversel sent the motion for a vote to the other three commissioners, but did not specify when the vote would be for the program, called Emergency Broadband Benefits.
Congress allocated funds last December as part of the COVID-19 relief bill. The money will be available above the poverty line or in 135 percent of households that qualify for free and reduced school lunch, or a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020.
At least 14.5 million households do not have high-speed Internet access. For many families, especially in urban and suburban areas, the high cost of broadband has prevented them from receiving service. The consequences of the digital divide during the epidemic have been severe. Children have been cut off from online learning and adults have been unable to work from home or receive important health information.
“No one should have to choose between paying their Internet bill or paying to put food on the table,” Ms. Rosenversel said in a statement. “With the help of Emergency Broadband Benefit, we have a new way to use virtual learning at home, for patients to connect with telehealth providers, and for those struggling in this epidemic to learn new online skills and make their next To search for a job. “
The digital divide has been one of the most stubborn problems for the federal government.
Although more than $ 8 billion of federal subsidies are allocated each year to Internet service providers to bring broadband to every American household, adoption and access rates have improved in the crawl. Broadband maps, for example, are more notorious than access to service in many households. If an Internet service provider such as Verizon or Comcast reaches just one home in a census block, the entire block appears connected on the federal map – even when in fact not all households are given the option of broadband.
Last week, Ms. Rosenversel announced a task force to study the agency’s tracking of broadband access data.