LANSING — A new federal program is accepting applicants for program that aims to help lower the cost of high-speed internet service.
In an emailed news release from Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II and the Connecting Michigan Taskforce, it stated that the Emergency Broadband Benefit is a new program from the Federal Communications Commission that is making $3.2 billion available nationwide for eligible households.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit launched on May 12 eligible households would receive discounts of up to $50 per month on internet service, or up to $75 per month for qualifying households on tribal lands. Some internet service providers will also provide a one-time $100 discount toward the purchase of a computer, laptop or tablet as part of the program.
In the release, Gilchrist tied the benefits of the program to more people learning and working from home during the pandemic and how that “has highlighted just how great the need for reliable and affordable high-speed internet access is in Michigan, just as it is everywhere in our country.”
“Internet service is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity,” Gilchrist said. “We are working on getting the word out about the Emergency Broadband Benefit program to both broadband providers and residents across Michigan to ensure that every eligible household in our state has an opportunity to take advantage of this tremendous federal resource.”
A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:
• Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or the FCC’s Lifeline program;
• Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
• Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year; and
• Experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
More than $20 million in Connecting Michigan Communities grants have been awarded in the last several years. Additional grants are expected to be announced in June 2021. The economic impact of the CMIC grants is projected to exceed $25 million.
Over the past year, providers in Michigan have secured more than $22.5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Broadband ReConnect Program, $1.8 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, and $363 million from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Program.
On May 10, the FCC voted unanimously in favor of the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which plans to provide $7.1 billion nationwide to help schools and libraries improve access to internet service.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will also start taking applications for three national grant programs that were established under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and will collectively award more than $1.6 billion to improve access, adoption and digital literacy.
Eligible households can enroll in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company at getemergencybroadband.org. More information on the program is available at fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, or by calling 833-511-0311 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. any day of the week.