In welcome news for North Carolina families struggling with the costs of accessing online and digital resources, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced recently that it is working to establish a new program aimed at providing eligible households with discounted pricing on broadband service and digital devices. The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is a new $3.2 billion federal initiative announced by the FCC in late February that will enable qualifying households to receive monthly discounts on their broadband service bills and one-time discounts on the purchase of a computer or tablet.
The FCC intends to open the new program to applicants within the next several months. Key highlights include:
- Monthly discounts on broadband service up to $50 for eligible households, with households on Tribal lands eligible for discounts up to $75 per month
- One-time discounts up to $100 on the purchase of a laptop computer, desktop computer, or tablet from a participating provider
- Wide eligibility for households participating in existing relief programs offered by a broadband provider and those participating in other financial assistance programs (learn more here)
“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection,” said Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel when announcing the new initiative in February. “It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work. It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning. It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries. In short, this program can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across the country.”
The heightened dependence on remote work and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly spotlighted the digital barriers facing families here in North Carolina. The NC Chamber is pleased to see the establishment of this new program, which we hope will serve to increase broadband adoption throughout our state. At the state level, we remain committed to championing policies that will strengthen grant funding for broadband expansion, broaden access to digital devices, improve broadband availability and adoption, and enhance high-speed connectivity in unserved and underserved areas of our state.
Access our 2021 legislative agenda here to learn more about our focus on forward-thinking broadband infrastructure investments and other priorities vital to North Carolina’s continued competitiveness.