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From the Director: Emergency Broadband Benefit

From the Director: Emergency Broadband Benefit

April 20, 2021

For decades, cities have viewed gas, electric, water, sewer, cable, and telephone services as critical infrastructure. In recent years, people now see that internet access is equally as indispensable. This point was really driven home during the pandemic when children had to transition to remote learning, and some adults were also asked to work from home. Some had internet access, but many folks didn’t. And among those who did have access, sometimes the quality of the service wasn’t sufficient.

In response to this, many libraries created opportunities for people to access high-speed internet outside their four walls. MCPL, for example, enhanced its outdoor Wi-Fi signals and started loaning personal Wi-Fi devices to help meet this need. However, public libraries can only do so much to address a widespread problem. Recognizing this, the American Rescue Plan has established a program called Emergency Broadband Benefit to provide home internet access or improve bandwidth.

Simply put, this program offers up to $50 a month toward internet service and up to $100 toward the purchase of a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. To find out more about this program, visit getemergencybroadboand.org.

After looking over the qualification parameters, it seems to me like many people are going to be eligible for this program. Here are some of the key eligibility guidelines—if any of these situations describe you, then you may be eligible for these discounts:

  • Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and had a total household income in 2020 of less than $99,000 for single filers or $198,000 for those filing jointly
  • Qualify for the FCC’s Lifeline program for low-income consumers
  • Participate in a Lifeline-qualifying program, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance, etc.
  • Have a household income at or beneath 135% of the federal poverty level
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year

While the federal website is still lacking in some details, my friends at Digital Inclusion KC say the following internet providers intend to participate in the program, and you may want to contact them directly to see if you qualify:

  • AT&T
  • Charter/Spectrum
  • Comcast
  • Cricket Wireless
  • PCs for People
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon

Although details are still coming together, one point is clear: the discount program will continue only if there is funding to support it. If you believe you could benefit from this program, visit getemergencybroadband.org or watch this video for more details.

Steven V. Potter
MCPL Director and CEO

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